Top 10 Art Universities and Schools in the United States

Learn about the top ten art universities and schools 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. View article »

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  • 0:03 School Information
  • 1:01 Rhode Island School of Design
  • 1:45 School of the Art…
  • 2:21 Cranbrook Academy of Art
  • 3:01 Art Center College of Design
  • 3:48 Top Art Schools in the U.S.

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Video Transcript

School Information

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.

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 have global programs, while others are highly selective with low student-to-faculty ratios.

Rhode Island School of Design

The Rhode Island School of Design tied 4th 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 1 spot in the fine arts category.

Rhode Island School of Design is a 4-year private college serving roughly 2,300 students. 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.

Over 3,500 students attend this school, 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 6th in U.S. News & World Report's 2016 list of the best fine arts colleges. It also had 2nd-highest-ranked ceramics program and the 4th highest graphic design program in the nation.

This small school serves approximately 152 graduate students each year and 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 2-year study.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Art
  • Art History
  • Arts Management
  • Ceramics
  • Drawing
  • Metal and Jewelry Art
  • Multimedia Arts
  • Painting
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture
  • Weaving and Textile Arts

Art Center College of Design

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

Art Center is home to approximately 1,900 students from 45 countries, with a student/faculty ratio of 9:1. 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.

Top Art Schools in the U.S.

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

School Name Distinction Location
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 highly recognized schools 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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