Top 10 Art Universities and Schools in the United States

Jul 18, 2019

Learn about the top ten art colleges and universities in the United States, including areas of study and degree programs available at four of these high-ranking institutions. Additional program notes for the remaining six schools can be found in an easy-to-read table at the end of the resource.

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Art Universities

Students looking to further their education in art can find programs at the undergraduate and graduate degree level. Most of the institutions that offer the best programs in the nation are specialized art schools or universities with well-respected art departments.

Four of the best art schools in the USA include:

  1. Rhode Island School of Design
  2. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  3. Cranbrook Academy of Art
  4. Art Center College of Design

Art is a broad field of study that includes the fine, performing, sound, and visual arts. Four schools in particular have received high marks from U.S. News & World Report for their fine arts programs and have also been ranked individually for some of their design or specialty studies. The Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Art Center College of Design offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. On the other hand, the programs available at the Cranbrook Academy of Art are offered exclusively at the graduate level.

Along with high U.S. News & World Report rankings, several of these schools of fine arts have global programs, while others are highly selective with low student-to-faculty ratios.

Best Art Schools

Rhode Island School of Design

The Rhode Island School of Design tied fourth among fine arts schools in 2016 by U.S. News & World Report. Its programs in graphic design, glass design, and metals and jewelry secured the number one spot in the fine arts category.

Rhode Island School of Design is a four-year private college serving roughly 2,500 students, according to the website in 2019. These students may pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Arts (M.A.) in a variety of art and design fields, including apparel or industrial design, ceramics, and film and video production. Fine arts programs in illustration, painting, photography, and sculpture are also available. Students may also concentrate in areas such as art history or philosophy.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is another nationally renowned art school that tied for 4th place in U.S. News & World Report's 2016 list of the best fine arts colleges.

According to the school website, over 3,600 students attend this school in 2018, which offers undergraduate and graduate art programs through a credit/no-credit system. These programs include art education or therapy, fiber and material studies, fashion design, and historical preservation. Students can also pursue formal training in arts administration, architecture, writing, and new arts journalism.

Cranbrook Academy of Art

The Cranbrook Academy of Art is a small private college near Detroit that placed sixth in U.S. News & World Report's 2016 list of the best fine arts colleges. It also had the second highest ranking for their ceramics program and the fourth highest graphic design program in the nation.

This small school serves approximately 141 graduate students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Cranbrook offers master's degrees in architecture, metalsmithing, and painting, as well as photography, print media, and sculpturing. Students receive their own studio space after enrollment. Unique to the school is its community approach to education, whereby students share their work in the school's gallery at the end of the two-year study.

Art Center College of Design

According to U.S. News & World Report, for 2016 the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA is tied as the 20th-ranked school in fine arts.

Art Center is home to approximately 2,250 students from more than 40 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, said the school website in 2018. Bachelor degrees are offered in eleven areas of art, including graphic design, fine art, and illustration. Master degrees in seven fields are available in areas such as environmental, industrial, and transportation design. These programs can be found at four campuses, including one in Berlin, Germany. The school also offers public programs such as Art Center at Night and Art Center for Teens for local budding artists to explore different mediums and build portfolios.

Other Top Art Colleges in the USA

The following schools also offer top-rated programs in art:

School Name Location Distinction
California Institute of the Arts Valencia, CA Home to the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater in downtown Los Angeles
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA Interdisciplinary student teams work together at The Entertainment Technology Center
Columbia University New York, NY Houses the School of the Arts Global Programs, which have collaborated with countries such as China, France, Italy, Jordan, and Uganda
Maryland Institute College of Art Baltimore, MD The Business of Art and Design Master of Professional Studies (MPS) program is offered online
University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA Home to the Center for Intercultural Performance (CIP)
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA Headquarters to the Virginia Commonwealth University fine arts program in Qatar

Four universities - the Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Center College of Design, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art - are among the best arts universities in the USA, highly recognized for their fine arts programs. However, many other colleges offer excellent schools of art in a variety of programs around the country.

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