CalArts has a long history of graphic design students designing and printing posters for on-campus visiting artists and designer lectures, as well as performances in the Schools of Music, Theatre and Dance. The poster archive contains fifty years of posters designed by BFA and MFA students (along with a few by faculty, visitors and friends of the program), most of which are silkscreen prints produced by the designers in a limited run. While these posters serve to publicize events, they also act as a site for students to experiment with form and composition. The small self-contained audience, and short time they hang in the hallways of CalArts, allow for a high level of experimentation and risk-taking, making the posters as much about the agenda of the individual designer as the event itself.

This unedited, uncensored collection documents individual as well as programmatic development since the 1970s and provides a chronological history of CalArts events, performances, visiting artists and cultural activities.

CalArts Poster Archive

The CalArts Poster Archive was initiated in 1995 when faculty members Shelley Stepp and Kary Arimoto-Mercer began collecting posters from the CalArts hallways in order to preserve the designs. Shelley and Kary housed and began to catalogue the archive, which quickly grew in size with collections donated by Ed Fella and Michael Worthington. Stepp continued to collect posters from students and faculty over the following years, aided by a series of student assistants, and formalized a process for students to donate their posters to the archive as soon as the posters were printed.

In Fall 2016 faculty member Michael Worthington took on the task of photographing and making public the archive in a digital and printed form. A dedicated group of student assistants photographed the posters, creating a digital catalogue, and designed this website to house the images.

The goal of the digital archive is to make the poster collection available to the public, and also to crowdsource missing information from alumni and faculty. The physical archive has been housed in a dedicated on-campus space since 2018, and contains many more posters than the digital archive currently displays. The process of shooting and cataloging is ongoing.

If you are an alumni who would like to donate posters to the archive please contact posters@calarts.edu.


Photography and database development by Ella Gold (MFA ’19), Christina Huang (MFA ’19), Marco Lukini (MFA ’17), Vivian Naranjo (MFA ’19), Tracy Tran (MFA ’19), Guanyan Wu (MFA ’18), Joe Suh (BFA ’21) and Yingyi Zhu (MFA ’21). Natalie Gooden (BFA ’22), Michelle Bac (MFA ’24) and Sundhya Anthony (BFA ’24) are the current student archivists.

Project Management and Development by Michael Worthington

Web Design by Guanyan Wu (MFA ’18) and Tracy Tran (MFA ’19)

Web Development by Yay Brigade

Machine Project posters: photos by Arthur Evans, courtesy of the Tang Teaching Museum, Skidmore College; 2017  photos by Ian Byers-Gamber, courtesy Machine Project

All work copyright CalArts and the individual designers. If you would like to exhibit or reproduce any of these images please contact posters@calarts.edu.