Introduction to GAFA
Jun 8, 2015

Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA) was formerly known as Central South College of Fine Arts established in Wuhan, Hubei Province in 1953 in response to national planning on institutions of higher learning. The college merged related schools of Central South Institute of Art and Literature, South China Institute of Art and Literature, Guangxi Arts College and their faculty. Its first president was Hu Yichuan, a renowned revolutionary artist who attended the well-known Yan’an Literature and Art Symposium in 1942. Its first vice presidents were famous oil painter Yang Qiuren and famous artists of Chinese painting Guan Shanyue and Yang Taiyang.

In 1958, the college was moved from Wuhan to Guangzhou and renamed GAFA. GAFA was included into the list of China’s first institutions authorized to confer Master’s degrees in 1981. It began to enroll students from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and foreign countries and regions in 1987, was approved as one of the first pilots for Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs in 2005, and gained authorization to confer doctoral degrees in 2021. In 2023, it was authorized to confer 6 more degrees upon approval by the Academic Degree Committee of the State Council. Now it confers 3 doctoral degrees for 2 first-level disciplines (Fine Arts, Design) and 1 second-level discipline (Art and Calligraphy), and 7 master’s degrees for 2 first-level disciplines (Fine Arts, Design) and 5 professional degrees (Art and Calligraphy, Design, Museology, Landscape Architecture, Education).

Following Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, GAFA implements the CPC’s education policies, carries out moral education, and upholds the philosophy of “keeping integrity and innovation with an open and inclusive mindset, and serving the society with an insight into the reality”. Over the past seven decades, it has kept pace with the times, responded to social needs, and focused on developing students’ innovation in fine arts and design while emphasizing art theory and liberal arts. Now it embraces multidisciplinary integration and industry-university-research collaboration. Its motto is thus established as “Learn Morality before Art”, and school hymn as “We Should Be Pioneers of the Times”.

In the new era, GAFA is determined to cultivate high-caliber talents and boost academic research and artistic creation at a higher starting point through new initiatives. To this end, it will leverage Guangdong’s advantages as a pioneer and experimental zone of reform and opening up, and take root in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) which enjoys rich historical, geographical, economic, cultural and intellectual resources. In this way, it will play a leading role in the field of art and design education in the GBA, further promote talent training, scientific research, creations, and provide intellectual support for the new era to achieve high-quality development.

Size: GAFA consists of Changgang Campus, Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center Campus and Foshan Campus (under construction), with 12 schools and 1 affiliated secondary school of fine arts. Now it has 7,157 undergraduate students, 1,347 graduate students (including 29 doctoral students and 1,318 master students), and 10 international students.

Disciplines and programs: GAFA boasts 6 Guangdong key disciplines, including 3 Panfeng key disciplines (2 first-level disciplines: Fine Arts, Design; 1 secondary-level discipline: Arts and Crafts) and 3 characteristic disciplines (1 first-level discipline: Theories of Art Studies; 2 secondary-level disciplines: Theory and Criticism of Fine Arts, Film and Digital Media). Three first-level disciplines (Fine Arts, Design, Theories of Art Studies) were approved as key disciplines by Guangdong Discipline Improvement Program two rounds in a row. In the program evaluation between 2018 and 2020, Fine Arts and Design were rated A, Theories of Art Studies was rated B. In the program evaluation organized by the Ministry of Education, Fine Arts and Design were rated B+, Theories of Art Studies rated B, which demonstrate their leading position in Guangdong and China as well.

In recent years, GAFA proactively responds to the needs of national and regional socio-economic development as well as knowledge innovation, scientific and technological progress, discipline development. In view of its positioning and actual conditions, it strives to improve the integration of disciplines and majors, optimize discipline construction and improve talent training quality. It offers 25 specializations in 33 majors, including Fine Arts, Painting, Sculpture, Photography, Calligraphy, Chinese Painting, Experimental Art, Cultural Relics Protection and Restoration, Fiber Art, Science and Technology Art, Art Education, Art Design, Visual Communication Design, Environmental Design, Product Design, Clothing and Apparel Design, Public Art, Art and Crafts, Digital Media Art, Art and Technology, Ceramic Art Design, Package Design, Art Design for Theatre, Film and Television, Animation, Film Photography and Production, Art Education, Clothing Design and Engineering, Industrial Design, Intelligent Interaction Design, Intelligent Engineering and Creative Design, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Art Management. Among them, 18 majors (Fine Arts, Painting, Sculpture, Photography, Calligraphy, Chinese Painting, Experimental Art, Cultural Relics Protection and Restoration, Visual Communication Design, Environmental Design, Product Design, Clothing and Apparel Design, Art and Crafts, Art and Technology, Ceramic Art Design, Animation, Industrial Design, Architecture) have been selected for construction of national first-class undergraduate program, and 6 majors (Public Art, Digital Media Art, Film Photography and Production, Art Education, Landscape Architecture, Art Management) have been approved for developing provincial first-class undergraduate program. Other highlight majors include 1 national pilot for comprehensive major reform, 2 provincial key majors, 6 provincial pilot projects for comprehensive major reform, and 2 provincial demonstration majors for practice-oriented talent training. GAFA is gradually forming a major construction pattern that emphasizes social needs with the backing of first-class majors, multidisciplinary integration, and dynamic adjustment.

Faculty: GAFA has benefited greatly from a highly accomplished faculty. Over the past 70 years, it has witnessed the presence of many renowned and remarkable artists in its campus, including Hu Yichuan, Yang Qiuren, Yang Taiyang, Guan Shanyue, Li Xiongcai, Wang Zhaomin, Gao Yongjian, Chi Ke, Chen Shaofeng, Yang Zhiguang, Pan He, Zheng Canxia, Liu Qimin, Chen Xiaonan, Chen Tiegeng, Zhang Xinrangs and more. Nowadays, GAFA gathers plenty of well-established faculty members who have been teaching in the college for years, such as Guo Shaogang, Chen Jinzhang, Liang Shixiong, Yin Guoliang, Zheng Shuang, Liang Mingcheng, Zhang Zhi’an, Yin Dingbang, Pan Xingjian, Wang Ren, Wang Shouzhi, Yang Yao, Li Ming, Zhao Jian, Quan Sen, Wu Weiguang, FangChuxiong, Guo Runwen, Tong Huiming, Li Jinkun, Huang Qiming, Lin Lan, Fan Bo, Song Guangzhi, and Cai Yonghua.

GAFA has 559 full-time teachers and scientific researchers, including 85 professors and 177 associate professors, among which 195 hold doctorate degrees. The academy brings together an outstanding collection of talents and teams, including the National Huang Danian Style Teacher Team, the first team of top teachers of the national model course of ideology and politics, the first national team of the research and reform practice project of the new liberal arts, as well as national and provincial talent title winners of cultural experts, scholars included in “Yangtze River Scholars Award Program”, and “talents from four fields – theory, journalism, publishing and literature and art” of Publicity Department of the CPC, first prize for education of Fok Ying Tung Education Foundation, young talents for ideological and cultural propaganda of Publicity Department of the CPC, leading talents for ideological and cultural propaganda and famous teachers included in “Guangdong Special Support Program”, etc. The faculty also includes many excellent artistic talents holding important academic positions in China Artists Association and its arts committees, Guangdong Artists Association, Discipline Appraisal Group of Academic Degrees Committee of State Council, Teaching Steering Committee of Ministry of Education, and various national associations of fine arts and design.

Talent cultivation: GAFA has been proactively deepening reforms to upgrade the education quality under the guidelines of “adhering to socialist education and nurturing talents with morality”. In the evaluation of the last three sessions of Teaching Achievement Award, GAFA was awarded 1 special prize and 4 first prizes. In recent years, GAFA students have achieved outstanding results in various important events. They have won more than 100 critical prizes in fine arts and design, including Bronze Award of the 12th National Exhibition of Fine Arts, Excellence Award of the Fourth National Youth Fine Arts Works Exhibition, Gold Award of Art Exhibition (Chinese Painting) in Nanjing, China, Gold Award of Art Exhibition (Oil Painting) in Nanjing, China, Best Works Award of China First Illustration Art Exhibition, China Habitat Environment Award, Asian Design Award, China Interior Design Award (Academy Award), and many internationally recognized awards including Red Dot Award, iF Design Award, Braun Prize, IDEA (International Design Excellence Awards) of the United States, SPAPK Design Awards, China Red Star Design Award, Gold Award of China Universities Industrial Design Competition (CUIDC) of Ministry of Education. They also won many silver awards and bronze awards in the national finals of China International College Students “Internet+” Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, and National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition for Students from Art Colleges. In recent years, the initial employment rate of GAFA’s graduates remains above 90%, and the employers’ satisfaction rate achieves 100%. The salary of its undergraduates ranks among the top 100 universities in China for five consecutive years, and among the top 3 universities in fine arts.

Academic research and artistic creation: Faculty members of GAFA have won hundreds of awards for academic research and artistic creation at the provincial level or above, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, Creation Award and Theoretical Review Award of China Fine Arts Awards, Gold, Silver and Bronze Award of National Exhibition of Fine Arts, Gold Award of Chinese Meritorious Personage with Design Contribution, China Calligraphy Lanting Awards, Outstanding Achievement Award of Academic Research in Higher Education of Ministry of Education, Outstanding Achievement Award on Philosophy and Social Science of Guangdong Province, Lu Xun Literary and Art Award (Art) of Guangdong Province. A lot of their works have been included in major national themed art creation projects entrusted by the government, such as the art creation project of Ancient Chinese Civilization, the major art creation project in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the CPC, the major national art creation project themed on the Great Rejuvenation of the CPC and the Chinese Nation, etc. They have received grants for their research and creation efforts from various major or key projects of National Social Science Fund and many national research programs, including National Social Science Fund, National Science and Technology Support Program, and New Century Talent Support Program.

Platform construction: With a focus on the academic forefront, GAFA gathers superior resources and high-level talents, and vigorously promotes platform construction by centering on talent cultivation and scientific research. In recent years, it has built national platforms such as the “National Experimental Teaching Demonstration Center of Design Skills Education” and “Guangdong Modern Advertising Creative Center”, and 19 provincial scientific research platforms including Key Laboratory of Guangdong Province, Guangdong Industrial R&D Center, Guangdong Key Research Base for Humanity and Social Sciences for General Universities, Guangdong Key Laboratory of Philosophy and Social Sciences for General Universities, Guangdong Research Base for Social Sciences, Art and Technology Support Platform, Guangdong Research Base for Intangible Cultural Heritage, Guangdong Demonstration Base for Industry-University-Research Cooperation, Guangdong Collaborative Innovation Center, a cooperation and innovation platform between Guangdong universities and their international, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan counterparts, Guangdong Base for the Inheritance of Excellent Chinese Traditional Cultural Heritage, Guangdong Research Base for Lingnan Culture, etc. They provide a strong support for GAFA to leverage the synergy among government, industry, academia and research, expand innovative development paths through integrating arts and sciences, and cultivate well-rounded high-end art talents.

Social services: With a focus on major national strategies and the principle of “integrating art with science, science with education, and industry with education”, GAFA is profoundly involved in the development of society, economy and culture. GAFA has undertaken more than 600 creation and design projects from governments, enterprises and public institutions. It created a great number of public art works with high social influence, including the city sculpture “Pioneering Bull” in Shenzhen, “Zhuhai Fisher Girl” in Zhuhai, the statue of “Mao Zedong in Youth” on Orange Island in Changsha, and Bing Dwen Dwen, the mascot of Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. The academy undertook the design of Guangdong Provincial Government’s gifts in commemoration of Hong Kong and Macao’s return to the motherland, Guangdong Hall of The Great Hall of the People, PLA Navy’s Museum, China National Pavilion of Expo Japan, Theme Pavilions and Shanxi Pavilion of Expo Shanghai, Maritime Silk Road Museum of Guangdong, China Ceramics and Glass Museum, Changjiang Civilization Museum, Guangzhou Branch of China National Archives of Publications and Culture, etc. The city logo of Guangzhou and the logo of Golden Panda Awards were also designed by GAFA. All these efforts have rendered strong support for the image display of China, cultural construction of the Greater Bay Area and transformation and upgrading of regional economy.

International Exchanges: GAFA has forged close ties with more than 50 art colleges including University College London, The Glasgow School of Art, Birmingham City University, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Chiba University, Tokyo University of the Arts, Repin St. Petersburg State Academy Institute of Painting, Moscow State Academic Art Institute named after VI Surikov, Sculpture and Architecture, and Saint-Petersburg State University of Technology and Design in countries and regions including the UK, France, Russia, Canada, the USA, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan of China. GAFA regularly arranges excellent teachers and students to study, communicate or conduct academic research in other countries or regions. It also sets up exchange programs and cooperative training programs with overseas sister universities, launches international workshops and lectures, quality fine arts and design exhibitions and high-level international academic seminars, and invites renowned overseas experts and scholars to speak at the lectures and academic conferences.

In addition, GAFA makes great efforts in improving education for international students and realizes enrollment in majors such as comprehensive fine arts and design innovation. It advances cooperation in running schools with high-level international universities in order, and opens itself up to enhance international education. Based on its academic and disciplinary advantages, it plays an active role in cultural exchange programs between China and other countries. By presenting its academic research achievements and the excellent works of its faculty members and students, GAFA has always been dedicated to sharing China stories by good communications and spreading China’s voice to the world. Based on its geographical advantages and driven by innovation, GAFA actively expands art exchanges with different countries and regions, and fully explores ways of cross-border connection in contemporary art design, having formed a holistic view of culture to systematically present more diverse art practices from a macro perspective. It presents the narrative style and charm of Chinese art to the world, promotes the cultural dimension of building Chinese-style modernization, and promotes the construction of a community with a shared future for mankind through building cultural community.

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