CVA Action

For alumni, former faculty and staff, and supporters of the arts, CVA Action provides a connection to the history, culture, and legacy of the College of Visual Arts to the broader arts community through events and creative placemaking. Unlike other alumni networks that benefit from an active institution, CVA Action has a small, dedicated group of creative people that, in the wake of the closing of the College of Visual Arts, volunteer their time and talents to the preservation of the artistic community in Saint Paul, MN.

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CVA Action is a nonprofit dedicated to continuing the legacy of the College of Visual Arts through preserving its history and creating events designed to inspire and connect alumni with the broader local and national arts community.

About the College of Visual Arts

The College of Visual Arts (CVA) in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was a private, accredited, four-year college of art and design offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in fine arts, graphic design, illustration, fashion design, and photography. The fine arts degree offers concentrations in drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture.

CVA began as one of the first learning environments in the Twin Cities specifically designed to ignite the creativity of artists and designers. CVA is one of a handful of art and design colleges in the U.S. that provides an arts education steeped in the liberal arts. With an enrollment of approximately 200 students and a faculty of 50, CVA offers a low student-teacher ratio. The College is one of only two private art and design colleges in Minnesota. The College announced in January of 2013 that it’s doors would be closing forever effective in June. The group CVA Action quickly formed, comprised of alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff and community members dedicated to searching out and presenting alternative solutions to the closing of the college.


In 1924, Mills College of Art and Advertising was established in St. Paul. Lowell Bobleter acquired Mills College in 1948 and renamed it the “School of the Associated Arts.” Lowell Bobleter was a prominent St. Paul artist and educator and had directed the School of Fine Arts at Hamline University. Bobleter had a vision of developing an art school that would offer students a more comprehensive and progressive program based on the Bauhaus model: an integrated program including both fine and applied arts, with general courses in humanities, natural sciences and aesthetics.

The School of the Associated Arts initially offered students either a three-year certificate or a four-year diploma in two tracks: Fine Art or Commercial Art. In 1968, the curriculum was changed to offer a B.F.A. Degree instead of the four year diploma. Major fields were expanded over the years, and “commercial art” became communication design, illustration, and photography.

In 1969, the college assumed its current non-profit status. After the death of Lowell Bobleter in 1973, the School of the Associated Arts elected its first independent board of trustees and began enlarging the faculty and administrative staff to meet the needs of growing numbers of students. During the 1970s, the school achieved national accreditation with the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools (NATTS) and began to participate in federal financial aid programs. In 1989, the name of the school was changed to the “College of Associated Arts.”

The college then began the process of seeking accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC). The administration adopted the name “College of Visual Arts” (CVA) in 1995 to clarify that the college was a four-year institution. CVA was granted candidacy status by HLC in August 1994, and was granted initial accreditation for five years in 1998. HLC renewed CVA’s accreditation for a seven-year term in 2003.

During the 1990s, enrollment increased and the college expanded its facilities. In addition to the Summit building, housing the administration, classrooms, computer labs, and printmaking and sculpture studios, the college added four additional buildings in the Selby-Western area to accommodate the college library, additional classrooms and studios, a photography lab, and a gallery.

Academic Program

All first year students participate in a clearly sequenced yearlong foundation program consisting of a strong standardized curriculum in studio arts, liberal arts, and an orientation to art and design. It provides a required introduction to the essential visual vocabulary, concepts, and technical skills necessary for success in all the upper level programs. This program provides all first year students with the information necessary to make an informed choice of major at its conclusion.

What students learn in the first year, and expand upon in courses in their major, culminates in the Senior Thesis Program. Thesis work includes the development of a mature body of studio work for exhibition and a written analysis of the student’s collection, a professional portfolio, website, and opportunities to develop presentations for public address. This program also equips students with career-focused skills and experience—from interviewing for art and design positions, teaching, and applying for public commissions to writing grant proposals, launching and promoting a freelance business, and applying for graduate school.

Integration of liberal arts coursework in all of the art and design majors is a distinguishing feature of the College of Visual Arts; CVA offers a robust selection of liberal arts courses to enhance the student’s learning experience. Extensive study in art history helps the students understand their own work in the context of the larger world of art and design. Active learning through the arts is employed in many areas such as math and science courses. Oral presentation and critical reading, thinking, and writing are important skills across the curriculum.