Cornish College of the Arts
|Location||Seattle, Washington, United States
Cornish College of the Arts is a fully accredited institution in the Denny Triangle and Capitol Hill neighborhoods of Seattle, Washington, USA that offers the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance, Theater, Performance Production, Design, and Fine Art, as well as the Bachelor of Music degree. Today it is nationally recognized as a premier college for the visual and performing arts, and one of only three fully accredited private colleges in the entire nation dedicated to educating both performing and visual artists.
Founded in 1914 as the Cornish School of Music, the name was changed a few years later, in 1920, to The Cornish School. In the 1950s, the name was lengthened to the Cornish School of Allied Arts; in 1977 it became the Cornish Institute of Allied Arts, and in 1986, the Cornish College of the Arts.
Cornish College of the Arts was founded in 1914 as the Cornish School of Music, by pianist and voice teacher Nellie Cornish (1876–1956). Cornish, who served as the school's director for its first 25 years, till 1939. Cornish founded her school following the progressive pedagogical ideas of Maria Montessori as well as the ideas on music pedagogy of Evelyn Fletcher-Copp and, especially Calvin Brainerd Cady, who taught at the school until his death in 1927. The Cornish School of Music began its operations in rented space in the Boothe (or Booth) Building on Broadway and Pine Street.
Conceived by Cornish as "an elementary school of the arts — all the arts — with music as its major subject," the school initially taught only children, but it soon expanded to functioning also as a normal school (roughly what would now be called a teachers' college) under Cady. Within three years it had enrolled over 600 students, and was the country's largest music school west of Chicago.
Nellie Cornish recruited opportunistically where she saw talent, and the school soon offered classes as diverse as eurhythmics, French language, painting, dance (folk and ballet), and theater. In 1915, the first full academic year, eurythmics was added and the first studio arts classes taught. Dance, with a ballet focus, became a department in 1916 headed by Chicago-trained Mary Ann Wells. That same year, Cornish became one of the first West Coast schools of any type to offer a summer session. After the closing of their influential Chicago Little Theatre, Maurice Browne and Ellen Van Volkenburg were brought in to found the Drama Department in 1918; the department, with its incorporation of scenic design, music, and dance in its productions, became central to Cornish's plans to ally the arts. Van Volkenburg also began a marionette department, the first such department in the country. By 1923, opera and modern dance had been added to the curriculum as well.
In 1920, in recognition that music was no longer the school's central focus, the school's name was simplified to The Cornish School. By this time, too, the school had expanded its age range, and was offering classes and lessons from early childhood to the undergraduate level. The school gathered a board of trustees from among Seattle's elite, who funded her school through the hard economic times during and after World War I, and raised money for a purpose-built school building. Finished in 1921, the Cornish School building, now known as Kerry Hall, opened for the 1921-22 academic year.
The Cornish Trio of the 1920s—Peter Meremblum, Berthe Poncy (later Berthe Poncy Jacobson), and Kola Levienne—may have been the first chamber music group resident at an American school. In 1935, Cornish established the first (but ultimately short-lived) college-level school of radio broadcasting in the U.S.
Through the 1920s, the school was often on the edge of financial failure, but was of a caliber that prompted Anna Pavlova to call it "the kind of school other schools should follow." Although the mortgage was paid off and the building donated to the school in 1929, financial difficulties inevitably grew during the Great Depression. Ultimately, convinced that finances would not allow the school to do more than "tread water," Nellie Cornish resigned her position as head of the school in 1939.
While there were difficult years for the school after 1939, in the long run Cornish did much more than "tread water." With support from local arts organizations and a core of dedicated faculty and staff, the school ultimately "reinvented" itself many times, and in 1977 earned full accreditation as a degree granting college from the Northwest Commission on Colleges. That was one year after the establishment of the Theatre Department as the fifth fully fledged academic department. In 1982, the college received a large Title III grant which was instrumental in establishing the Video Art program in the Art department, and in the genesis of the Performance Production Department, which was granted full departmental status with the graduation of its first class in 1986. The BFA in Performance Production added concentrations in Costume, Lighting, Scenic and Sound Design, Stage Management and Technical Direction. Performance Production was established as an independent department so that it would be able to provide support to major productions of the Theatre, Dance and Music departments and provide its students with experience in all three. Recognizing the vital importance of liberal arts studies as a part of the education of an artist, Cornish established its seventh department, Humanities and Sciences, some years later. Humanities and Sciences had been an important part of the Cornish education even before the accreditation process of the '70s, but the important step of granting department status reaffirmed the commitment to "whole person" education.
Miss Aunt Nellie: The Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish, was published by the University of Washington Press in 1964, with the assistance of funds from the Cornish School Alumnae Association.
Cornish's 1921 building, now known as Kerry Hall, is on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as "Cornish School"; its Denny Triangle building is also listed on the NRHP, as the "William Volker Building". The Raisbeck Performance Hall is a Seattle City Landmark under the name "Old Norway Hall".
|Location||710 E. Roy St., Seattle, Washington|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architectural style||Other, Spanish Colonial Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||77001337|
|Added to NRHP||August 29, 1977|
Volker, William, Building
|Location||1000 Lenora St., Seattle, Washington|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architectural style||Art Deco|
|NRHP Reference #||83004236|
|Added to NRHP||October 13, 1983|
The library at Cornish College specializes in art, dance, design, music, performance production, and theatre. As of 2011 it held 4,700 CDs, 40,000 books, has 2,200 videos, and subscribed to 154 periodicals. Its special collections include an image collection and 35mm slides.
Well known graduates
Actor Brendan Fraser, who graduated from Cornish in 1990, is one of Cornish's best known graduates.  Drag performer and winner of the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race Jinkx Monsoon Graduated from Cornish in 2010
- Guide to the Cornish School of Allied Arts Records, 1893-1989; http://nwda.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv93389
- Cornish, Nellie C. Miss Aunt Nellie: The Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish, Ellen Van Volkenburg Browne and Edward Nordhoff Beck, eds. Seattle, University of Washington, 1964; pp. 89-91.
- Cornish, Nellie C. Miss Aunt Nellie: The Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish, Ellen Van Volkenburg Browne and Edward Nordhoff Beck, eds. Seattle, University of Washington, 1964; pp. 66-69.
- Cornish, Nellie C. Miss Aunt Nellie: The Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish, Ellen Van Volkenburg Browne and Edward Nordhoff Beck, eds. Seattle, University of Washington, 1964; pp. 73-75.
- Mildred Andrews, Cornish School, HistoryLink Essay 596, December 26, 1998, updated on June 28, 2006. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- Cornish, Nellie C. Miss Aunt Nellie: The Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish, Ellen Van Volkenburg Browne and Edward Nordhoff Beck, eds. Seattle, University of Washington, 1964; p. 91.
- Berner 1991, pp. 92–93
- Nate Lippens, short item on Cornish as part of "People Who Shaped Seattle", Seattle Metropolitan, May 2006, p. 59. Brenden Fraser went to Cornish and graduated with honors.
- Cornish 1964, pp. 89–113
- Berner 1991, pp. 93–94
- Cornish 1964, p. 97
- Cornish, Nellie C. Miss Aunt Nellie: The Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish, Ellen Van Volkenburg Browne and Edward Nordhoff Beck, eds. Seattle, University of Washington, 1964; p. 121.
- Cornish 1964, p. 109
- Cornish 1964, pp. 133–134
- Cornish, Nellie C. Miss Aunt Nellie: The Autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish, Ellen Van Volkenburg Browne and Edward Nordhoff Beck, eds. Seattle, University of Washington, 1964; p. 120.
- Cornish 1964, pp. 112–113
- Cornish 1964, pp. 170–171
- Cornish 1964, pp. 160–161
- Cornish 1964, pp. 245–249
- Cornish 1964, pp. 154, 161–162
- Cornish 1964, p. 163
- Cornish 1964, pp. 204–205
- Cornish 1964, p. passim.
- Cornish 1964, pp. passim, esp. p. 252–261. The reference to "treading water" is on p. 255.
- WASHINGTON - King County (page 2), National Register of Historic Places. Accessed online 31 January 2008.
- WASHINGTON - King County (page 5), National Register of Historic Places. Accessed online 31 January 2008.
- Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for O, Individual Landmarks, City of Seattle. Accessed 28 December 2007.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- American Library Directory 2 (64th ed.). Information Today, Inc. 2011–2012. pp. 2568–2576. ISBN 978-1-57387-411-3.
- Halpern, Lisa (February 10, 2005). "Fraser's Edge". Cornish College of the Arts. Retrieved December 27, 2007.
- Mildred Andrews, Cornish School, HistoryLink Essay 596, December 26, 1998, updated on June 28, 2006.
- Berner, Richard C. (1991), Seattle 1900-1920: From Boomtown, Urban Turbulence, to Restoration, Charles Press, ISBN 0-9629889-0-1
- Cornish, Nellie C. (1964), Browne, Ellen Van Volkenburg; Beck, Edward Nordhoff, eds., Miss Aunt Nellie. The autobiography of Nellie C. Cornish, foreword by Nancy Wilson Ross, Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press
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