About Cornish

The College’s founder Nellie Cornish, and the many teaching artists who followed her, believed in education through exposure to all the arts.

Cornish Commons

Cornish College of the Arts

Our Mission

The mission of Cornish College of the Arts is to provide students aspiring to become practicing artists with an educational program of the highest possible quality, in an environment that nurtures creativity and intellectual curiosity, while preparing them to contribute to society as artists, citizens, and innovators.

Historic Cornish

Begun in 1914, Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA, offers Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in the performing and visual arts and a Bachelor of Music degree, multiple public programs, and extension courses.

The College’s founder Nellie Cornish, and the many teaching artists who have followed her, believed in education through exposure to all the arts. This approach continues to inform the College’s curriculum and community involvement today. Our holistic approach to education promotes experimentation, discovery, and innovation, giving artists the creative intelligence they need to thrive in their disciplines and beyond. We have been inspiring artistic and academic excellence for more than 100 years.

Cornish is accredited by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design

Nellie Cornish photo portrait

the history of cornish

1914

Cornish Beginnings

Construction for the new campus of "The Cornish School for Drama, Music, Dance" began on the first day of 1921. The work was rushed forward so that the school could open early in September, on time for the still young institution’s eighth season. Perhaps predictably, in late summer agents with homes to sell or apartments to rent in the neighborhood enhanced with this new landmark, began running classifieds for their properties with the message “near Cornish School” in both The Times and The Post-Intelligencer.

Holyoke Building

the history of cornish

1916

The Artists' Colony

The Holyoke Building in 1900 on 1st Ave is where Nellie Cornish set up her first studio accepting students. The building still stands today.

Cornish Historic Students

the history of cornish

1921

Progressive Musical Education

Children learn how music is divided, using the he Montessori-based method of Evelyn Fletcher Copp. Eventually, Mary Cornish would adopt the progressive musical pedagogy of Calvin Brainerd Cady, who had worked as musical director with John Dewey (who set up his seminal progressive educational project, what is now the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools).

Booth Building

the history of cornish

1920s

The School Expands in All Directions

The Cornish School at the Booth Building, Broadway + Pine, 1920. The school occupied the top floor, including Nellie's apartment. Note the sign on the tower advertising

"Expression — Art — Language — Dancing"

Photo: Webster; Stevens; PEMCO Webster &
Stevens Collection, Museum of History; Industry, Seattle

Oddfellow Hall

the history of cornish

1920s

Cornish Continues to Develop

The Odd Fellows Hall, which is still standing today. Throughout the years, the hall has been the home of many smaller arts organizations.


Photo: Joe Mabel, WikiMedia Commons

Historic Construction of Kerry Hall

the history of cornish

1924

New Buildings as the Community Grows

Nellie Cornish visits the construction site of what would become Kerry Hall, 1924. Kerry Hall currently hosts the Dance and Music programs and is located at of heart of Seattle's vibrant Capitol Hill neighbor.

Nellie is second from the right.

the history of cornish

1925

Nellie Founds Her School

This portrait was made in the mid-1920s, and has become the official portrait of Nellie Cornish.

Cornish Historic Theater

the history of cornish

1928

Cornish Artists Make a Name for Themselves

Martha Graham and her dance troupe in action, performing Heretic.

Photo: Soichi Sunami

Cornish Historic Graduation

the history of cornish

1937

Cornish Leaves Cornish

Nellie Cornish handing out degrees at The Cornish School's 1937 graduation ceremony.

Photo: Staff Photographer, P-I; Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Merce Cunningham

the history of cornish

1938

Fame Finds Cornish

Merce Cunningham mid-performance, during one of his mesmerizing dance pieces.

Nellie Cornish with Mark Tobey in 1951

the history of cornish

1951

Nellie Back in Seattle

Nellie Cornish at 74, with Mark Tobey, Miss Nellie Cornish, and Mrs. Norman J. Vickerman. (Tobey is second from the left, next to Nellie.)

Photo: Chicago Sun-Times

Cornish Historic Dance Department

the history of cornish

1950 + 1960s

Cornish School of the Allied Arts

Music and Art Foundation assumes ownership of Cornish School and in 1955 is renamed Cornish School of the Allied Arts. In 1968 a Board of Trustees is established.

Pike Place Market

the history of cornish

1970s

Cornish in the 1970s

In 1976, Cornish School of Allied Arts is renamed Cornish Institute, and by 1977, Cornish is awarded accreditation as a four-year college by the commission on colleges of the Northwest Association of Schools. Two years later, the Liberal Arts program is established.

Cornish Kerry Hall

the history of cornish

1980s

Cornish in the 80's

Kerry Hall behind its new, red sign bearing the school's new title: Cornish College of the Arts.

In 1986, Cornish is renamed Cornish College of the Arts. Previously, in 1983, Cornish purchases Lakeside School (The St. Nicholas School) and establishes the Cornish North campus. The Performance Production Department is established.

Mark Morris

the history of cornish

1990s + 2000s

Mark Morris

In 1992, Cornish’s Art and Design departments are granted national accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, and four years later, Cornish joins Consortium for the Liberal Education of Artists (CLEA).

In 2001, the Humanities + Sciences program is established as its own department. By 2003, Cornish College of the Arts relocated Art, Design, Humanities + Sciences, Performance Production, Theater, Library, and Student Services to its new campus in South Lake Union. One year later, the first production in the Ned and Kayla Skinner Theater in the Raisbeck Performance Hall is Ladders on The Pearblossom Highway, an Original Works production.

Cornish Main Campus Center with Space Needle

the history of cornish

2000s

2010s

2014 marked Cornish College of the Arts' centennial celebration. The following year, Cornish opens its first ground-up building project, Cornish Commons. The 20-story building in South Lake Union provides both residential and academic space.

In 2015, Cornish adds the Film BFA program, and the following year, the Interior Architecture program. May 2017 marked the first Commencement to award all 8 degrees: Art, Dance, Design, Film, Interior Architecture, Music, Performance Production, and Theater.

Raymond Tymas-Jones with Foundations student

the history of cornish

2018

Dr. Raymond Tymas-Jones

July 2018, Cornish College of the Arts appointed President, Raymond Tymas-Jones.

Cornish tuition reset article headline

the history of cornish

2019

Tuition Reset

In January 2019, Cornish announced a tuition reset to decrease loan debt.

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1950s + 60s

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1990s + 2000s

2010s

2018

2019

Our Values

Cornish College of the Arts is committed to the following core values:

  • Providing an educational environment that offers personalized attention and acknowledges the whole person, cultivating artistic potential and individual voice.
  • Supplying a rigorous and balanced arts education that encourages experimentation and innovation while providing a solid grounding in technique and craft.
  • Providing a fine arts education that develops imaginative and critical thinking capacities grounded in knowledge, producing not just trained, but educated artists.
  • Creating a college environment that demonstrates respect for equal opportunity for all persons and the inclusion of diversity in the curriculum and in the ranks of the student body, faculty, staff and Board of Trustees.
  • Offering a faculty of practicing artists whose accomplishments serve to inspire and inform students seeking a professional career in the arts.
  • Contributing meaningfully to the cultural vitality of the community.

105

Years of Community Impact
Cornish students look at film strip

635

Current Enrollment

1:7

Faculty to Student Ratio

Statement of Difference and Inclusion

Cornish College of the Arts is enriched by a diverse population of students, bringing their unique personalities and voices to their art forms. Placed in the vibrant city of Seattle, artists thrive among the wide variety of people and broad spectrum of creative thought that surrounds us. The college supports and engages the many cultural, personal, and spiritual facets of our community.

Cornish commits to demonstrating respect for individual expression and integrity; to promoting the equality of opportunity and rights of all persons within the community and to actively encouraging and maintaining the representation and inclusion of diverse cultures and backgrounds within the student body, faculty, staff and curriculum.

We believe that diversity refers to a number of human qualities and characteristics. National origin, race, gender, age, socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation and disabilities are characteristics that combine in unique ways, forming the multiple identities we all hold. Those diverse characteristics contribute positively to the environment of Cornish and to an education that accurately reflects and contributes to the complex interplay of art, culture and society.

We hold ourselves responsible to fulfill the mission of Cornish by preparing students “to contribute to society as artists, citizens, and innovators,” and believe that the mission is best served by actively cultivating a positive environment in which to explore and express the diverse perspectives of a pluralistic society.

 

Our City,
Our Campus

The Cornish campus locations are surrounded by theaters, museums, music venues, and galleries; iconic Seattle landmarks like the Space Needle; the national headquarters for some of the country's fast-expanding tech corporations; and, of course, many coffeehouses.
Download the campus map
Space Needle from below
Rainier Brewery
KEXP mural
Red moped against colorful mural
Seattle Public Library
Seattle Sculpture Park red sculpture
Neon farmers market sign
Georgetown Records window display
Jimi Hendrix statue
waterfront with buildings, water, and ferris wheel
Fremont Troll
Space Needle from below
Rainier Brewery
KEXP mural
Red moped against colorful mural
Seattle Public Library
Seattle Sculpture Park red sculpture
Neon farmers market sign
Georgetown Records window display
Jimi Hendrix statue
waterfront with buildings, water, and ferris wheel
Fremont Troll
Cornish College of the Arts is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (1977) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (1995). Cornish is licensed to confer degrees by the State of Washington.