The California State Summer School for the Arts is a rigorous, preprofessional, month-long training program in the visual and performing arts, creative writing, animation and film for talented artists of high school age. CSSSA provides a supportive environment in which students hone acquired skills and explore new techniques and ideas for an intense and exciting learning experience. The school was created by the California Legislature, and held its first session in 1987. Its purpose is to provide a training ground for future artists who wish to pursue careers in the arts and entertainment industries in California. The California State Summer School for the Arts is a state agency funded through a unique public-private partnership.

California residents enrolled in grades nine through twelve may apply to attend CSSSA. Students from outside of California may also apply; twenty are admitted each year. Participants are selected in the spring, on the basis of their talent and creativity as demonstrated through assignments and teacher recommendations. The student body is representative of the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the state. The admissions process is highly competitive. (Last session approximately one in three applicants in most departments were accepted). Students invited to the school are named California Arts Scholars.