The Foundations Program—the freshman year for all Art, Design, Film, and Interior Architecture students—is about working together with faculty and peers so that you have what you need to develop your creative voice.

We believe that opportunities open up when students who paint are exposed to design; when designers understand film; when filmmakers draw. It may not show up in your work immediately, but diversity in all its manifestations changes the realm of what’s possible.

In Foundations, you’ll study with a small cohort in shared studios. Our faculty, professional artists themselves, are adept at knowing when to give you structure and when to let your ideas roam. Your projects will be iterative and collaborative, a mix of making, research, reading, and writing. We’ll bring humanities and science into the picture as well.

Your work will include both digital and analog processes. You’ll learn from the past and shape your own future.

Critically, you’ll experience all this in Seattle, an urban center surrounded by stunning natural resources, where pop culture and high culture join forces, where the theoretical and material together spark concepts unimagined. It’s no wonder our city is one of the most potent creative communities in the country.

Foundations is a program for taking things in: skills, content, concepts. At year’s end, you’ll choose to focus on Art, Design, Film, or Interior Architecture.

And the edges will always be as porous as you want them to be.

How It Works

The Foundations program at Cornish College of the Arts is a cohort-based model, meaning that students work together in groups within a shared studio environment. The program broadly introduces first year visual arts students to relevant research practices within the disciplines of Art, Design, Film and Interior Architecture. All of which informed by relevant cultural, historical and social perspectives that frame contemporary creative practice. Student learning is situated within three fully integrated units of inquiry: Studio, the Humanities and Sciences, and Critical and Contextual Studies.

First year writing is completed as part of this model Over the course of the Foundations year, students will develop integrative learning skills across and beyond the curriculum in conjunction with an increased capacity to transfer knowledge and learning between subjects, while being exposed to a broad spectrum of practices from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Reading, writing, research and making are emphasized as equally important components within an informed and adaptive practice. As students progress through the program, they work closely with faculty to develop an individual perspective and a personal artistic direction, developing skills in both analogue and digital media. Full time studio space and ongoing access to equipment and facilities provide the student with opportunity to work within various communities of practice, and to develop cumulative learning while simultaneously developing an ongoing awareness of their work. The Foundations Program culminates with students selecting one of three pathways: Art, Design, or Film.


The Foundations studios are configured to a flexible and adaptive shared workspace that models the culture of the program. They are spacious, with high ceilings and lots of natural light. Students have access to their studios late into the evenings and on weekends.


The Foundations curriculum is intentionally designed to facilitate making connections and build content across subject areas with research-directed learning outcomes. Students register for the following three units per semester for a total of 15 credits. These units are fully integrated to deliver an intentionally connected framework that models and builds integrative skills and learning.

An example of a typical weekly schedule

11am         STUDIO FN123
2pm C+C FN133 H+S HS113
3pm C+C FN133 H+S HS113 C+C FN133

Laptop Policy

All incoming students will need to purchase a laptop and software before the start of classes. Provided below is a list of minimum system requirements to run the software that will be taught at Cornish College of the Arts:.

If you have already invested in a different system or have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the Visual Arts IT Coordinator.

Faculty & Staff


First Slide

September 7, 2017

Convocation Kicks Off the Year at the Playhouse

This year, the annual celebration of the beginning of the academic year at the College moved to the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center and was set to the music of alumna and jazz notable Dawn Clement, class of 2000.

​The students, faculty, and staff of Cornish College of the Arts gathered for the College’s Conv...

First Slide

September 6, 2017

Cornish College Opposes The Ending of DACA

A letter from Interim President Chris Kevorkian on the recent announcement to end the DACA program.

Dear Cornish College Community, Yesterday was the first day of the fall semester at Cornish Colle...

First Slide

May 15, 2017

Ruffner Draws On Cornish Expertise For Augmented Reality

This year’s Consilience Event at the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) features artist Ginny Ruffner. In 2015, Ruffner was invited into the Design classroom at Cornish Cornish College of the Arts to learn alongside our students, new tools and techniques she is using in the creation of her exciting augmented reality projects The result was a fruitful creative and technical learning as well as mentoring exchange.

Artist Ginny Ruffner’s interactive augmented reality installation Poetic Hybrids had some assistan...

First Slide

May 15, 2017

Commencement 2017 – You Will Climb the Sky

Invoking both Cornish College of the Arts’ storied past and the ever-changing creative landscape of the 21st century, Commencement speaker Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker told 2017 graduates: “You will climb the sky.

The 2017 Commencement took place at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle. Friends, families, and gradua...

First Slide

May 10, 2017

Creating Fables With A Baby Grand

Cornish Playhouse resident artists Ruth Marie Tomlinson (faculty), Fritz Rodriguez (alumni), John David Tomlinson, and Tania Kupczak have been deconstructing, cataloguing, rebuilding, and constructing fables of a Sohmer & Co. Baby Grand piano. The deconstruction began in November of 2016 and will culminate over Memorial Day weekend with a closing reception on May 25.

What do you do with a decommissioned piano? At Cornish College of the Arts, you turn it into art. In...

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April 27, 2017

Henry Art Show Reunites Alumni

“Fun. No Fun. Kraft Duntz featuring Dawn Cerny” at the Henry is three-quarters Cornish College of the Arts alumni. The Seattle-based artist/architect team of David Lipe, Matt Sellars ‘93, and Dan Webb '91, in collaboration with Dawn Cerny ’02, have created an installation for the Henry’s lower level gallery that will be on display through September 10, 2017.

David Lipe, Matt Sellars, and Dan Webb make up the artistic team known as Kraft Duntz. It’s a mix...

First Slide

April 13, 2017

Leslie Phinney Celebrates 35 Years Of “People First Design”

Leslie Phinney ‘79 is the Co-Founder, CEO and Creative Director of Phinney Bischoff, an integrated brand strategy and design firm with offices in Seattle, WA, and Sun Valley, ID. Throughout its 35-year history, Phinney Bischoff has had the privilege to work with many beloved Seattle brands, including BECU, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle Symphony, The 5th Avenue Theatre, and Woodland Park Zoo.

Her name is familiar for a reason: Leslie Phinney is the great-great-grandniece of real estate pione...

First Slide

March 24, 2017

First-Year Students Share a Novel and an Experience

A new part of matriculating in at Cornish, entering freshmen shared a moving novel as part of the First Year Reads program, then completed the experience on the streets of Seattle's International District.

Cornish is a college where collaboration and working across boundaries is at a premium, so a new pro...

March 1, 2017

Alumni In The News - March

She studied art at Cornish but Colleen Atwood has gone on to become one of Hollywood's best known costume designers, receiving her fourth Oscar in 2017. Several other Cornish artists and designers were in the news in late February and March.

Ria Brodell '02 has a show opening March 3 at Gallery Kayafas in Boston, Ria Bro...

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February 14, 2017

Historic Seattle Lecture Explores Cornish History

David Martin, the curator of Cascadia Art Museum exhibition on Cornish College of the Arts' history, will lecture on the history of the school on March 6, 7 p.m., at PONCHO. This event is part of the Historic Seattle 2017 educational program for lovers of buildings and heritage.

“Miss Aunt Nellie” as she was affectionately known, was arguably the most important figure in Wa...