The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) is a two-year institution focusing on sequential art, specifically comics and graphic novels Located in the village of White River Junction, in the town of Hartford, Vermont, the Center offers a Master of Fine Arts degree, both one and two-year certificate programs, as well as summer programs, and is "the only college-level training program of its kind in the United States."
The Center for Cartoon Studies was founded by cartoonist James Sturm and Michelle Ollie in 2004, with its first class of 18 students beginning their schooling in the Fall of 2005. The first class of students were accepted less on the quality of their drawing and more on their critical thinking skills, literary merit, storytelling abilities and curiosity.
The Center's first commencement took place on May 19, 2007, with roughly 20 students graduating. In 2007 CCS was approved by the State of Vermont to award Master of Fine Arts degrees and certificates, which have been awarded to students from all subsequent classes. It currently has a student body of 48 students with an average age of 24. About 20 new students are accepted each year.
The school educates students to be proficient in all aspects of graphic design and production, including self-publication and promotion. This is a notable step away from the specialized production model of mainstream comics companies such as Marvel Comics and DC Comics, wherein writing, pencilwork, inking, coloring, and lettering are most often handled by separate individuals. This inclination is in part due to many of the faculty's and significant donor Peter Laird's experience with alternative comics. The State of Vermont Department of Education approved CCS for degree granting authority and the school is also a member of Vermont Higher Education Council.
The Center for Cartoon Studies currently operates out of two buildings in the historic district of White River Junction, Vermont. The school rents space in the former Colodny’s Surprise Department Store Building, and in December 2011 the school purchased a former Post Office a few buildings down from Department Store Building. The schools Schulz Library used to be housed in a former fire station on Bridge Street, a building also occupied by the Main Street Museum, but had to be evacuated in August 2011 due to flood waters from Hurricane Irene.
All the main operational and educational facilities of the Center for Cartoon Studies are located in the former Colodny’s Surprise Department Store Building. Built in 1929, the building is the only Art Deco building in downtown White River Junction, and is built partially with Antique Verde marble quarried from Rochester, Vermont. CCS inhabits the first floor and basement of the building and includes multiple offices, a classroom, and an "open basement studio."
The Former Post office Building in downtown White River Junction was purchased by the school in December 2011. The brick building is constructed in a colonial revival architectural style and was built in 1934 as a Works Progress Administration structure. This building will become the main structure for the Center for Cartoon Studies and includes classrooms, faculty offices and lounges, and the Schulz Library. The top floor of the Post Office Building is still rented to the current tenants. It also includes studio space for the Inky Solomon Center, a grant-program geared towards CCS alumni, their comics and community outreach.
The Schulz Library, named after Charles M. Schulz is the official library of the Center for Cartoon Studies and currently houses over 9,000 titles  in one room. The Library is currently in storage, but was previously housed in the former Bridge Street firehouse, owned by the Main Street Museum. The material in the library had to be evacuated in August 2011 due to flood waters from Hurricane Irene. The Library's collection focuses on comic books, graphic novels, as well as "books about cartooning – both academic and instructional." The Schulz's collection has grown largely from donations from collectors and publishers, as well as artists. By the fall semester of 2012 the Schulz library will be moved to the Post Office Building the CCS purchased in 2011.
Special collections located at the Library include collections of gag cartoons, classic newspaper comic strips, Zines and mini-comics, and a large collection of rare and hard to find Peanuts books, as well as "a near-complete run of The Comics Journal." Many hard-to-find titles and previews of student work are featured on the Schulz Library Blog.
The Center For Cartoon Studies offers a Master of Fine Arts degree, both one and two-year certificate programs, as well as summer programs.
Each term, roughly 14 well known cartoon artists and others in the field come to CCS as visiting faculty and guest lecturers. The visiting faculty lecture, critique, and discuss with students of the school the student work and their own. Past visiting faculty have included Alison Bechdel, Ed Brubaker, Ivan Brunetti, James Kochalka, Jason Lutes, Scott McCloud, Seth, Art Spiegelman, Craig Thompson, and Chris Ware.
A senior Thesis is required at the Center, which usually involves the creation of a full scale graphic novel or a full year's worth of work.
In addition to Sturm, Stephen R. Bissette, Jason Lutes and Alec Longstreth are permanent faculty. For the 2011-2012 school year, cartoonist and animator Robert Sikoryak joined the faculty.
Students and alumni from the Center for Cartoon Studies have received Ignatz Awards, Eisner Award nominations and Xeric Foundation grants for their work. One alumni, who launched their drag career while attending the school, has won RuPaul's Drag Race.
CCS is the subject of a documentary film, Cartoon College, by Josh Melrod and Tara Wray. The film follows a group of CCS students from the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 classes and includes interviews with notable faculty and luminaries. It has been screened at film festivals in California, Vancouver (Canada), Washington, Florida, Glasgow, Maryland and of course, White River Junction. Future shows include New York City, Atlanta and New Zealand.