LCAD History

LCAD black and white photo of the main campus on laguna canyon road in laguna beach, ca.

Founded in 1961


Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) was founded in 1961 as the Laguna Beach School of Art, a non-profit college of art and design. In the early 1900s, artists, intellectuals, and entertainers began a thriving cultural community in Laguna Beach. Drawn to the stunning luminance of the area, plein air painters like Edgar Payne and Anna Hills founded the Laguna Beach Art Association, while screen actors like Bette Davis and Charlie Chaplin helped inspire the founding of the Laguna Playhouse. These pioneering cultural ventures spawned the Festival of Arts, Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Art Museum, and Laguna Beach School of Art (LBSA, the predecessor to the College). Nellie Gail Moulton was one of the founding members of LBSA and provided the first significant gift to the then fledgling college.

Since its founding in 1961, LCAD has grown significantly to include eleven undergraduate majors, three graduate degree programs, nine minors, and a Post-Baccalaureate program. LCAD’s campus also has grown to include seven sites throughout Laguna Canyon and Laguna Beach that accommodate its student population of more than 700 full-time students. The College has been under the leadership of fourteen College Presidents including our current President, Steven J. Brittan. LCAD is now one of the leading colleges of art and design in the country.

LCAD Milestones

  • 1961 Founded as the Laguna Beach School of Art
  • 1966 Incorporated as a not-for-profit organization
  • 1975 Purchased original 3.4 acres in Laguna Canyon from Irvine Company
  • 1977 Moved from Festival of Arts grounds to 2222 Laguna Canyon Road
  • 1987 First NASAD accreditation received as a four-year college granting a BFA
  • 1990 First BFA graduating class of 15
  • 1997 First WASC accreditation received
  • 2006 MFA in Drawing and Painting program launched
  • 2009 Purchased MFA Fine Arts Studios
  • 2010 Opened digital arts facility and first phase of student housing
  • 2010 Launched Post-Baccalaureate program
  • 2011 50th Anniversary Celebration, opened second phase of student housing
  • 2012 Purchased Administration Building at 2265 Laguna Canyon Road and Suzanne Chonette Senior Studios at 2295 Laguna Canyon Road, opened third phase of student housing, and launched Action Sports emphasis
  • 2013 Opened Suzanne Chonette Senior Studios, opened fourth phase of Residence Hall, launched Entertainment emphasis, opened LCAD Gallery
  • 2014 Purchased 2851 Laguna Canyon Road
  • 2015 Launched MFA in Game Design
  • 2016 Purchased Big Bend site at 2825 Laguna Canyon Road
  • 2017 LCAD graduates its largest class ever of 121

LCAD Presidents

  • Ruth Osgood Salyer (1962-1974)
  • David Patterson (1975-1976)
  • Lewis Cohen (1977)
  • Richard Tobin (1978-1983)
  • Patricia Caldwell (1984-1986)
  • Thomas Reeves (1987)
  • William Otton (1988-1990)
  • Rus Lewis (1991)
  • John Lottes (1992-1997)
  • Alan Barkley (1998-2004)
  • Hélène Garrison (pro tem, 2004-2005)
  • Dennis Power (2005-2011)
  • Jonathan Burke (2011-2020)
  • Hélène Garrison (pro tem, 2020-2021)
  • Steven J. Brittan (2021 – present)