Top Fine Arts Schools

Learn about what to expect from a top-ranking fine arts school. Find out what the best fine arts schools in the country are, and discover what undergraduate and graduate degree programs they offer. Schools offering Art degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Characteristics of Top Fine Arts Schools?

You might find strong fine arts programs at specialty arts schools, although some public and private universities also achieve high rankings in this field. You also might want to choose a school with facilities specific to your studio art discipline. Colleges and universities that offer opportunities to interact with professional artists might appeal to you, and travel-abroad opportunities and access to important collections could enhance your experience.

What Are Some of the Top Fine Arts Schools?

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence

U.S. News & World Report rated RISD second for its graduate fine arts programs in 2012. RISD ranked in the top five for each of the eight fine arts specialties that U.S. News & World Report considered. This school offers thirty-two degree programs through its Division of Fine Arts.

As a student here, you'll have access to the 86,000-item collection at the RISD Museum of Art and the 150,000 circulating volumes at the Fleet Library. The Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab collection provides exploration of design in nature. You might attend a European Honors Program in Rome or participate in other international opportunities. Available degree programs include:

  • BFA/MFA in Glass
  • BFA/MFA in Painting
  • BFA/MFA in Photography
  • BFA/MFA in Ceramics
  • BFA/MFA in Jewelry + Metalsmithing
  • BFA/MFA in Printmaking
  • BFA/MFA in Sculpture
  • BFA/MFA in Textiles
  • BFA in Illustration
  • BFA in Film/Animation/Video

School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in Illinois

SAIC, an independent school of art and design offering undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs, is affiliated with the Art Institute of Chicago. U.S. News & World Report ranked SAIC second for MFA programs in 2012, and the school gained top 15 rankings among the nine specialties considered.

The school offers you access to the Art Institute collections and galleries, a visiting artists' series and the Gene Siskel Film Center. International programs have included a painting and studio practice trip to Italy and trips to China, Germany and Austria. You could use wood and metal shops, including a bronze and aluminum foundry and metal fabrication equipment. Representative degrees include:

  • BA in Art History
  • BA in Visual and Critical Studies
  • BFA in Studio
  • BFA with an Emphasis in Art Education
  • BFA with an Emphasis in Writing
  • MFA in Studio
  • MA in Art Education
  • MA in Art Therapy
  • MA in Modern and Contemporary Art History
  • MDes in Fashion, Body and Garment
  • MDes in Designed Objects

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond

VCU was the highest-ranked public university in the nation for graduate fine arts programs in 2012; it tied for fourth place in graduate fine arts programs overall, according to U.S. News & World Report. As a VCU student, you'd have easy access to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as well as resources in Washington, D.C.

VCU offers 15 bachelor's programs, 20 master's programs and four doctoral programs through the VCU School of the Arts. Each graduate discipline has its own studio facilities in the 115,000-square-foot Fine Arts Building. For example, the metals and jewelry studio contains rooms for welding, metalsmithing and milling. As a ceramics student, you may have the opportunity to work in the 8,000-square-foot ceramics studio. Undergrads have access to a woodshop, foundry, metal fabrication shop, computer labs and digital labs. Here is a sample of the many degrees offered:

  • BFA in Craft/Material Studies
  • BFA in Kinetic Imaging
  • BFA in Painting and Printmaking
  • BFA in Photography and Film
  • BFA in Dance and Choreography
  • MFA in Fiber
  • MFA in Ceramics
  • MFA in Jewelry/Metalworking
  • MFA in Theatre Pedagogy
  • PhD in Art History

Ten Top Fine Arts Schools

College/UniversityInstitution TypeLocation
Yale University4-year, PrivateNew Haven, Connecticut
University of California, Los Angeles4-year, PublicLos Angeles, CA
California Institute of the Arts4-year, PrivateValencia, CA
Carnegie Mellon University4-year, PrivatePittsburgh, PA
Cranbrook Academy of Art4-year, PrivateBloomfield Hills, MI
Maryland Institute College of Art4-year, PrivateBaltimore, MD
Columbia University in the City of New York4-year, PrivateNew York, NY
Alfred University--New York State College of Ceramics4-year, PrivateNew York, NY
California College of the Arts4-year, PrivateSan Francisco, CA
Bard College4-year, PrivateAnnandale-On-Hudson, NY

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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