This chronology, compiled by Claire de Dobay Rifelj, tracks the history of the arts at UCLA from 1919–2019.


The Southern Branch of the University of California (later UCLA) is founded through the efforts of two key figures: the midwestern educator Ernest Moore, and UC regent and political editor of the Los Angeles Express Edward Augustus Dickson. Moore is supportive of the arts as an important facet of university study, and undergraduate teaching degrees are available in fine arts.

Barbara Morgan, who will go on to become Martha Graham's primary photographer, joins UCLA's first graduating class with a focus in design. She receives her teaching degree in 1923 and is a member of the faculty from 1926 to 1931.


The original faculty roster includes Helen Chandler, Annita Delano, and Nellie Huntington Gere, all of whom teach at UCLA for decades. The department remains entirely composed of women professors and instructors until 1931, and is female-dominated until World War II comes to a close.


Having been located on Vermont Avenue for its first ten years, the university moves to a brand-new Westwood campus that opens with 5,544 students and four permanent buildings, including Royce Hall.

Laura Andreson begins working in and teaching ceramics, establishing the medium as an important one at UCLA early on. Students in the 1930s source their own clay from the streams surrounding the still-sparse Westwood campus.


The painter Annita Delano (an influential faculty member from 1919 to 1962) cultivates relationships with major modern art collectors, including Galka Scheyer and Walter and Louise Arensberg. Scheyer's collection of work by Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and others (now at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena) becomes the subject of several small exhibitions that Delano installs for students to study up close.


After receiving her bachelor of education degree in fine arts in 1932, Laura Andreson begins teaching in the department in the area of design. She remains on the faculty for nearly forty years, until her retirement in 1970.


The department hires its first man at the professor level, George Cox, who becomes chair. Throughout the 1930s, the fine arts area is still compact and encompasses art, design, and art history.


John Cage attends classes in the UCLA Department of Music, where he begins accompanying dance groups, and experiments with a water gong and placing household objects on or between piano strings to create new sonic effects.


The College of Applied Arts is founded with six departments, one of them the Department of Art, making it possible for the first time for students to major in art at UCLA, separately from the original Teachers' College.


The American modernist painter Stanton Macdonald-Wright, who founded an art movement he called Synchronism, joins the faculty and leads courses on Asian art history and aesthetics, particularly the art of Japan.


The 1944–45 academic year is the first time that a master of arts degree in art is offered at UCLA (an MFA will be available starting in 1965), signifying a new and firmer commitment to the study of art on campus.

With the passage of the GI Bill, which provides soldiers returning from World War II with a free education, thousands of veterans flood universities, including art departments, shifting the gender dynamics at institutions nationwide, including UCLA. Artists such as Ed Moses, BA '55/MA '58, and Ronald Reiss, BA '55/MA '56, take advantage of this program.


The art faculty soon becomes male-dominated, with figurative painters Gordon Nunes and Jan Stussy, and later Sam Amato and the abstract painter William Brice, joining its ranks. All of them exhibit their work at the city's then-prominent modern art galleries, Felix Landau and Paul Kantor.


Clinton Adams joins the faculty, after having been a student in the late 1930s. A painter, Adams soon delves into printmaking, eventually becoming director of the prominent master print shop Tamarind, founded by June Wayne (who herself later serves as a visiting professor in the department).


Martin Friedman receives his MA in art and art history. Beginning in the 1960s, he will serve for decades as director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, playing a crucial role in putting that institution at the forefront of the contemporary art world.

Betye Saar receives her BA in 1949 with a focus on design. In the following decades she will transition to printmaking, then to sculpture and assemblage, producing some of the most poignant works of the civil rights era onward.


The modernist sculptor Anna Mahler, daughter of composer Gustav Mahler, joins the department for the year as a visiting faculty member. Her work will later be installed permanently on campus as part of the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden.

Gibson Danes, an art historian out of Yale University with an interest in contemporary art, is named chair of the Department of Art, a position he will hold until 1958. Danes sets about strengthening the art and art history faculty and initiates the restructuring of the College of Applied Arts into the College of Fine Arts with newly defined areas of study.


Danes oversees the founding of the UCLA Art Galleries, which are established to present student and faculty shows as well as contemporary and historical exhibitions. He hires Frederick S. Wight, an artist, professor, and curator, who mounts exhibitions on a wide range of subjects, for instance architect Richard Neutra, Spanish masters, the art of the Congo, and the Bauhaus.

John Paul Jones is hired to establish a program in printmaking—a medium that is experiencing a rebirth in the field of fine arts.


Oliver Andrews joins the department and establishes its first sculpture program. An influential force, he contributes to the design of the new art building to ensure its viability for sculpture studies. His students include Peter Alexander, BA '65/MFA '68, Judy Chicago, MA '64, Lloyd Hamrol, MA '63, Michael C. McMillen, MFA '73, and Maria Nordman, MFA '67.

May 20

Life magazine devotes a twelve-page color spread to the thriving arts programs at UCLA. It is influential in attracting students such as Robert Heinecken, who enrolls that fall to complete his BA in art and soon becomes a professor of photography. The article notes, "Throughout the school is a realistic and earnest air, created partly by an excellent faculty which believes in first teaching fundamentals and partly by the hard-working students themselves."


The College of Applied Arts is reestablished as the College of Fine Arts, offering degrees in art, dance, music, and theater, with the goal of balancing theory and practice.

Franklin D. Murphy is named the third chancellor of UCLA. He is a firm believer in the importance of the arts as part of the university experience and is an ally in continuing to develop the art history and painting departments, as well as the university galleries.

Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy establishes the UCLA Student Committee for the Arts (SCA), composed of graduate and undergraduate students, to encourage student awareness of and participation in the arts at UCLA.


Ceeje Gallery opens on La Cienega Boulevard, then home to Los Angeles's gallery row. Founded by Jerry Jerome and Cecil Hedrick, the latter of whom received his BA from UCLA a few years before, Ceeje becomes a hotbed of eccentric, subversive figuration, mostly by artists who studied at UCLA in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including Edward Carrillo, BA '62/MA '64, Roberto Chavez, BA '59/MA '61, Charles Garabedian, MA '61, Marvin Harden, BA '59/MA '63, Joan Maffei, MA '61, and Ben Sakoguchi, BA '60/MA '64. Ceeje offers an alternative, and more diverse, counterpoint to Ferus Gallery, another local avant-garde establishment a few doors down.


Lee Mullican arrives as a visiting professor and joins the faculty the following year. He will remain on faculty until 1990, and become celebrated for his intricately textured paintings.


The Dickson Art Center opens on the north side of campus, offering students the state-of-the-art facility for which art professors had long advocated. The UCLA Art Galleries move from the former Arts Building into Dickson, where they continue to host student shows as well as exhibitions by artists not affiliated with the university.

Painter David Hockney arrives as a summer visiting professor and gives a major lecture. He is so taken with Los Angeles that he moves here from London the following year. Other visiting professors in the second half of the 1960s include Llyn Foulkes, John McCracken, and Ed Ruscha.


Franklin D. Murphy successfully recruits the painter Richard Diebenkorn to join the department. Diebenkorn moves his studio from San Francisco to Santa Monica and remains on the faculty until 1973, his career growing exponentially during his UCLA years.

Thanks to the efforts of Robert Heinecken, photography is offered for the first time as an area of study at the graduate level. This program is one of the first of its kind in the nation, at a time when photography was still struggling to be valued as a fine art medium.


Vasa (Velizar Mihich) joins the faculty, which will eventually split between art and design, and does not retire from the department until fifty years later.

Charles E. Young is named UCLA chancellor, succeeding Franklin D. Murphy. He will serve in that office for twenty-nine years, until 1997, and continue Murphy's dedication to fostering the study of art on campus.


Robert Heinecken institutes a robust program of visiting professors (in part to cover his frequent sabbaticals), recognizing the importance of incorporating diverse approaches and respected voices into the curriculum. These include photographers Edmund Teske (1960s), Lee Friedlander (1970s), and Garry Winogrand (1980s). 


The exhibition Transparency, Reflection, Light, Space, curated by Frederick Wight at the UCLA Art Galleries, is an early accounting of what will become known as the Light and Space movement. Two of its four featured artists are UCLA alumni: Craig Kauffman, BA '55/MA '56, and Peter Alexander, BA '65/MFA '68.


The UCLA Art Galleries are renamed the Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery in honor of the galleries' founding director, then chair of the Department of Art.

Already well into his career as a sculptor and ceramicist, Adrian Saxe joins the department, first as a substitute instructor, and shortly thereafter as a member of the faculty.


Robert Heinecken is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in photography and convenes an important summer symposium on the medium, including the curator Carl Chiarenza and the artists Judith Golden and Todd Walker.


Chris Burden begins teaching in the department, earning tenure in 1986. He institutes a new study area, New Genres, which for the first time incorporates performance and video and ushers in a new era of avant-garde artistic research at UCLA.


Emulating Robert Heinecken's commitment to bringing world-class visiting professors to the photography program, other subject areas attract a steady stream of artists for visiting positions beginning in the late 1970s, including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Vito Acconci, Mike Kelley, Yoshitomo Nara, Bruce Nauman, Carolee Schneemann, and Alexis Smith.


The artist and scholar Robert H. Gray is appointed dean of the College of Fine Arts. During his tenure, he is honored by the president of Mexico for his cultural and artistic contributions and for his outstanding leadership in advancing Mexican arts at UCLA.


Only a few years into his career, Charles Ray joins the faculty, soon becoming one of the contemporary art world's most prominent sculptors.


Barbara Drucker and Nancy Rubins join the department in painting and sculpture respectively, each at the start of their artistic careers. Their hiring contributes much-needed female voices to the department, a balance that will continue to develop into the twenty-first century.


Paul McCarthy is hired onto the arts faculty, joining Chris Burden in New Genres, and contributes another performance- and video-based practice to the expanding department.


The graduate art studios move to an industrial zone of Culver City at the corner of Warner Drive and Hayden Avenue, and are soon known as the UCLA Warner Graduate Studios. Heading into the 1990s, annual open-studio events there become important moments on the art world calendar.

Painters Roger Herman and Patty Wickman join the faculty as professors of painting and drawing, both beginning decades-long careers of teaching in the department.


John Divola, MFA '74, receives a Guggenheim Fellowship in photography, the first of several alumni to be awarded that honor, including Jo Ann Callis, MFA '77 (1989) and Uta Barth, MFA '85 (2004).

The exhibition Teaching Artists at UCLA's Wight Art Gallery makes clear an aspect of the Los Angeles art scene that is perhaps less valued on the East Coast: that to teach is an important and desirable part of an artist's life and practice.


The Department of Art and the Department of Design separate into distinct academic units with separate faculties when the College of Fine Arts undergoes restructuring. Art history, previously part of the art department, moves to the College of Letters and Science.


UCLA's Department of Art is officially housed under the new School of the Arts, separate from the School of Theater, Film and Television. Robert Blocker, one of the nation's leading arts administrators, is named its founding dean.


The exhibition Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s, curated by Paul Schimmel at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, receives considerable press and puts a new generation of Los Angeles artists on the map, including many UCLA artists: faculty Chris Burden, Paul McCarthy, Lari Pittman, Charles Ray, and Nancy Rubins, and alumnus Raymond Pettibon, BA '77.


Several UCLA artists—Chris Burden, Raymond Pettibon, BA '77, and Charles Ray (as well as future faculty members Lari Pittman and Andrea Fraser)—are included in the 1993 Whitney Biennial, an influential and controversial edition due to its focus on politically relevant subjects such as race, gender, and identity.


The arts programs at UCLA are restructured as the School of the Arts and Architecture, with the addition of Architecture and Urban Design.

Lari Pittman, who had earlier studied at UCLA between 1970 and 1973 before earning his BFA and MFA at CalArts, joins the painting faculty.

Jason Rhoades, MFA '93, student and collaborator of Paul McCarthy, has his first post-MFA exhibition at Rosamund Felsen Gallery. It propels him to the forefront of the contemporary art scene and is described by Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight as "one of the most ambitious and memorable gallery solo-debuts I've seen."

UCLA takes over the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, later the Hammer Museum, which begins its gradual transformation into a leading center for contemporary art. It eventually establishes deep relationships with members of the arts faculty and serves as a major resource to students.


The New Wight Gallery, formerly the Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, is established, with a regular program of senior and MFA thesis shows and student-organized biennials. As interest in the art program grows throughout the 1990s, MFA exhibitions draw ever-larger crowds from the art world.

James Welling is hired to head the photography program at UCLA, following in the strong tradition that Robert Heinecken had started, and soon begins recruiting Catherine Opie to join him.


Mary Kelly joins the faculty and the following year establishes the study area Interdisciplinary Studio, with a focus on conceptual practices spanning many intellectual fields and mediums. She serves as chair of the Department of Art until 2000.

After teaching in the department for ten years (ever since his departure from CalArts in 1986), the renowned conceptual artist John Baldessari joins the art faculty as a full professor.

Daniel Neuman, a professor in the Department of Ethnomusicology since 1995, is named dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture.


The 1997 Whitney Biennial is wryly dubbed the "UCLA Biennial," reflecting the sheer number of artists associated with the school represented in the exhibition—nearly one-third of the faculty and numerous recent graduates. 


Mary Kelly organizes the first of her Spring Symposia at UCLA, which bring together major voices in contemporary art, theory, and criticism around a particular theme. The first, "On the Ugly," includes talks by renowned critics and artists Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Mark Cousins, Fred Wilson, and Yvonne Rainer. Kelly organizes six more symposia over the next eight years, contributing crucial dialogues to the university art community and beyond.


Dennis Cooper's "Too Cool for School" article in Spin magazine brings national attention to the department's current students, their unconventional aesthetic approaches, and the intense interest they are attracting from curators and collectors. Artists photographed and interviewed include Liz Craft, MFA '97, and Evan Holloway MFA '97. Charles Ray notes of the school's success: "Most art schools are about teachers and students. UCLA is about artists working as artists."

Vija Celmins, MFA '65, receives a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in recognition of her renowned career as a painter, sculptor, draughtsman, and printmaker. 

June 27

In a long article in the New York Times Magazine ("How to Succeed in Art") journalist Deborah Solomon features UCLA's art department as a lens through which to examine the prevalence and growing importance of the MFA degree.


Barbara Drucker becomes department chair.


Catherine Opie joins the faculty, lured from her professorship at Yale University, and joins James Welling in the photography program.


Faculty member Adrian Saxe receives both a Flintridge Foundation award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Several years later, in 2009, his work is featured in a major ceramics exhibition, Dirt on Delight: Impulses That Form Clay, that travels from the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.


Only six years after receiving her MFA at UCLA, Toba Khedoori, MFA '94, is awarded a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation. 


After being named acting dean the previous year, Christopher Waterman, professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures since 1996, is named dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture.


Jennifer Bolande, whose widely exhibited work spans numerous mediums, joins the faculty in the New Genres program. Two years later, she is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, one of her numerous past and future awards.


Barbara Kruger, whose incisive installations examine the intersection of media, aesthetics, and politics, is hired as a professor, contributing her world-renowned reputation and experience to the department.


The large-scale exhibition Los Angeles 1955–1985: Birth of an Art Capital at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris introduces many international viewers to the deep history of modern and contemporary art in Los Angeles, and UCLA is well represented with works by faculty John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Robert Heinecken, Paul McCarthy, Lari Pittman, Nancy Rubins, and James Welling, and alumni Peter Alexander, BA '65/MFA '68, Tony Berlant, MFA '64, Vija Celmins, MFA '65, Judy Chicago, MA '64, John Divola, MFA '73, Judy Fiskin, MA '69, Craig Kauffman, BA '55/MA '56, Michael C. McMillen, MFA '73, Ed Moses BA '55/MA '58, Raymond Pettibon, BA '77, Betye Saar, BA '49, and Peter Shelton, MFA '79. 


Andrea Fraser joins the New Genres program, adding her experience as a renowned artist and thinker to its ranks.

Hirsch Perlman joins the faculty.


On the footprint of the former Dickson Art Center, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center opens. Richard Serra's sculpture T.E.U.C.L.A. (2006) is installed on an adjacent plaza, made possible by a $23.2 million gift from the Broad Foundation. 


Hirsch Perlman's work is featured in four solo exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Madrid.

Russell Ferguson, previously senior curator at the Hammer Museum and an established scholar and critic, joins the UCLA faculty and becomes chair of the Department of Art.

Catherine Opie guides the establishment of the UCLA Department of Art Visiting Artists Lecture Series at the Hammer Museum, which becomes an important facet of the museum's annual programming. In addition to faculty and former students (including Evan Holloway, MFA '97, and Yoshua Okón, MFA '02), the series has featured such artists as Sam Durant, Dan Graham, Wangechi Mutu, Laura Owens, Jeff Wall, and Rachel Whiteread.


Chris Burden's large-scale public work Urban Light debuts at the inauguration of LACMA's new entrance plaza. It quickly becomes a beloved L.A. icon, dubbed by Curbed L.A. "Los Angeles's Great Landmark for the Twenty-First Century."


With an already well-established exhibition record, Rodney McMillian joins the sculpture faculty of the Department of Art.


After a celebrated run outside the Punta della Dogana museum in Venice, Charles Ray's sculpture Boy with Frog is installed on the main staircase entrance to the Getty Museum, where it instantly becomes an iconic addition to the institution's public art offerings.


From fall 2011 to spring 2012, dozens of exhibitions take place across the greater Los Angeles area as part of the Getty's unprecedented exhibition initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945–1980, focusing on the history of art in Southern California. Numerous UCLA artists are included, solidifying the school's importance in the development of the contemporary art scene.


The Hammer Museum establishes the first biennial of art from Los Angeles, Made in L.A. A testament to the strength of the department, the inaugural edition includes more than a dozen UCLA art alumni: Math Bass, MFA '11, Michelle Dizon, MFA '08, Patricia Fernandez, BA '02, Pearl C. Hsiung, MFA '97, Vishal Jugdeo, MFA '07, Mimi Lauter, BA '05, Dashiell Manley, MFA '11, Allison Miller, MFA '01, Meleko Mokgosi, MFA '11, Ruby Neri, MFA '98, D'Ette Nogle, MFA '00, Camilo Ontiveros, MFA '09, Ry Rocklen, BA '02, Analia Saban, MFA '05, Ryan Sluggett, MFA '11, David Snyder, MFA '10, and Brenna Youngblood, MFA '06.


For her groundbreaking work in photography, Uta Barth, MFA '85, receives a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant." 


Hirsch Perlman is named chair of the Department of Art.


The well-received 55th Venice Biennale exhibition, The Encyclopedic Palace, curated by Massimiliano Gioni and featuring an international and cross-generational slate of artists, includes alumni Trisha Donnelly, BA '96, and Sharon Hayes, MFA '03, as well as professors emeriti Charles Ray and Paul McCarthy. 


Painter Silke Otto-Knapp joins the art faculty, and two years later is featured in the Hammer Museum's Made in L.A. 2016 biennial, along with alumni Rafa Esparza, BA '11, and Gala Porras-Kim, BA '07.

Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded to three arts alumni: Phyllis Green, MFA '81, Sharon Hayes, MFA '03, and Xavier Cha, MFA '04.


Chris Burden, Andrea Fraser, Barbara Kruger, Paul McCarthy, Catherine Opie, Lari Pittman, and Charles Ray are included in America Is Hard to See, the inaugural exhibition at the new location of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.


The major reinstallation of MOCA Los Angeles's permanent collection, The Art of Our Time, includes a large number of professors (Chris Burden, Andrea Fraser, Catherine Opie, Lari Pittman) and former students (Vija Celmins, MFA '65, John Divola, MFA '74, Sharon Hayes, MFA '03, Elliott Hundley, MFA '05, Betye Saar, BA '49) working across a range of mediums.  


The Broad Museum opens in downtown Los Angeles with an inaugural exhibition that features the work of faculty members John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, and Charles Ray, among others. 

David Roussève, choreographer, writer, director, filmmaker, performer, and professor of Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance since 1996, is named interim dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. 

Several UCLA faculty and alumni receive fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, including Mary Kelly, Tim Hawkinson, MFA '89, Vishal Jugdeo, MFA '07, and Michael C. McMillen, MFA '73.

As of 2015, the Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, includes four current or retired professors from UCLA's Department of Art: John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie, and Lari Pittman.


Wu Tsang, MFA '10, is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in film and video.

With generous lead funding from Margo Leavin, the UCLA Department of Art announces plans to build a new $31 million complex to house its graduate artist studios, replacing the Warner Graduate Studios building in Culver City.

The School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA ranks number two on U.S. News & World Report list of best art schools in the country.


Wu Tsang, MFA '10, is awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.


UCLA commemorates the 100th anniversary of the granting of its charter in May 1919 with a centennial celebration.