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America's Top 5 Art Schools

By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

While many universities in the U.S. have highly respected colleges of art within, these schools concentrate on art for those who are certain about their desire to specialize. Several of America's best art schools have a distinguished 150-year-plus legacy. 

Rhode Island School of Design
Providence, Rhode Island

Highly competitive, the incoming freshman acceptance rate for this well known four-year art school is approximately 20 percent. About 2,000 students come from 56 countries where 33 percent of the student body is international. Founded in 1877, the private, nonprofit college is one of our nation's oldest schools for art and design, with 19 fields of specialty for its undergraduate and graduate schools. Historians note that RISD was founded by women more than 40 years before the women's suffrage movement in America. In recent years, RISD's former president, John Maeda, promoted the growing effort to add art to the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) creating a new, expanded element to STEAM focus in education.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

Walt Disney, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jeff Koons, and LeRoy Neiman are among the distinguished alumni and faculty of this top-ranked art school. The campus consists of several downtown buildings including one of America's greatest museums, the Art Institute of Chicago. Founded in 1866 as the Chicago Academy of Design by a group of 35 artists, SAIC has both an undergraduate (enrollment about 2,500) and graduate degree program, as well as a post-baccalaureate program.

California Institute of the Arts
Valencia, California

CalArts was born in 1961 as the vision of Walt Disney and his brother, Roy, to combine the visual and performing arts in a single institution of higher learning. Thirty miles north of Los Angeles, specialties of study include film and video; photography and media; art and technology. It offers a bachelor and a master of arts and another in fine arts as well as a doctorate in musical arts. Faculty members are working artists and every student is assigned a mentor. Approximately 950 undergrads are enrolled, plus another 500 graduate students, with an acceptance rate of 31 percent. Notable graduates include Sofia Coppola, Tim Burton, and John Lasseter.

Pratt Institute
Brooklyn, New York

On a surprisingly leafy urban campus on 25 acres in Brooklyn's Clinton Hill neighborhood, Pratt Institute (founded 1887) has 4,700 undergrads and grad students. In Brooklyn and at a Lower Manhattan location plus a Utica, NY campus, students are pursuing degrees in art, design, architecture, information and digital innovation, as well as liberal arts and sciences. Pratt also offers a minor in museum and gallery practices. The current acceptance rate is around 57 percent. Alumni of note include Robert Redford, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ellsworth Kelly, Harvey Fierstein, Joseph Barbera, Jules Feiffer, and Betsey Johnson.  

Yale School of Art
New Haven, Connecticut

For graduate student only, this school was founded in 1869. Painting, printmaking, photography, and sculpture are at the top of the list for popular studies at the famous Yale School of Art. It offers a master of fine arts degree in a two-year program to students already holding a bachelor's degree and a robust portfolio of work. With an intake of only about 65 students, the school maintains a very competitive six percent acceptance rate. On the beautiful 19th century Ivy League campus, students can be inspired by its two outstanding museums: Yale Univerity Art Museum, displaying ancient to modern art from Picasso to Van Gogh, and Yale Center for British Art, with the second largest collection outside the UK.




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