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17 Best Fine Arts Colleges in the US

It can be more difficult for you to find a college if you want to study the fine arts than it is for the ordinary student. Standard undergraduate degree programs can be compared fairly easily, but the curricula, facilities, and specializations of fine arts institutions might vary greatly. How do you tell which institutions specialize in the fine arts are the best and which ones are a good fit for you?

By developing a list of the best fine arts colleges in the US and bachelor’s degree programs in the nation, we have already taken the first step for you. This rating list is a little bit different (and a little bit more fascinating) than the typical college ranking list because each one provides something somewhat different.

We have divided these schools into school kinds because it would be difficult and possibly pointless to assign a specific rating to them on this list. We’ve also provided several methods for determining which colleges best suit your individual requirements.

What is a College of Fine Arts?

An institution that instructs students in the visual or performing arts is known as a fine arts college. These institutions provide several distinct degree options, including:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA): If you earn a BFA, also known as a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, the majority of your undergraduate studies will be spent in practical studios as opposed to more conventional lecture or discussion sessions. For instance, in a normal BFA degree, students would spend two thirds of their time in fine arts courses and one third in general education courses.
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA): The most typical undergraduate degree is the BA, or bachelor of arts. Most BA holders did not concentrate on the fine arts. The only difference between this sort of degree program and a BFA is the number of general education classes you must take. You might, for instance, divide your time between two thirds of general liberal arts studies and one third of fine arts courses.

After selecting your degree type, you’ll probably need to select an arts specialty. This is comparable to a major because it enables you to focus on and achieve success in a certain field or area. Acting, musical theater, ceramics, computer animation, creative writing, dance, sculpting, painting, and drawing are just a few of the many disciplines offered by many fine arts universities.

The typical fine arts college exclusively provides degree programs with a fine arts focus. But some liberal arts colleges and universities also offer a BA or even a BFA in the fine arts.

How are these Best Fine Arts Colleges in the US Ranked?

The majority of fine arts colleges are either specialized standalone institutions or departments housed within a bigger university.

Fine arts programs can be difficult to compare because they can take so many different forms and aren’t always standardized. In order to create a list of the top fine arts colleges in the nation, we combined industry perspectives with aggregated rating lists. We divided the colleges into groups based on how they differed from larger liberal arts colleges, specifically colleges that just focus on the fine arts.

They are arranged in alphabetical order after being divided into these two groups. You are encouraged to look for schools that best fit your own artistic goals and preferences when considering these lists, even though there are a few outstanding, stand-out institutions because they can provide students with such a variety of resources.

When deciding whether to include a school on this list, variables including program faculty, alumni network, industry comments, combined ranking lists, and program offers are mostly taken into account.

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How to Pick a Fine Arts Program: 4 Crucial Considerations

Make sure the school precisely satisfies your needs if you want to succeed in a fine arts program.

Programs in the fine arts are typically quite small. You’ll spend a lot of time in the studio and work closely with classmates and teachers in these programs. It’s critical that you feel at ease with the program, students, and professors because of the collaborative nature of the work you’ll be doing.

Here are four crucial points to think about when deciding which institutions you want to attend for fine arts before you make your final decision.

1. Specialized Programs and Curriculum

If you use a certain media nearly exclusively, you should enroll in a fine arts program at a school with lots of resources so you may practice your craft.

If you work in ceramics, for instance, Alfred would be a better fit for you and your hobbies than Columbia, so you might not want to put all of your effort on getting into Columbia.

2. Faculty

You should look for a college with knowing professors who can act as knowledgeable mentors. Check to see if faculty members whose work you are interested in are still employed by fine arts colleges. You might also think about whether a school has programs for visiting artists to bring in new and interesting students.

Lastly, look up the faculty-to-student ratio on US News. Do you feel that it is low enough to guarantee you individualized care?

3. Location

Working in the art world through internships is frequently a significant component of a fine arts degree. Is the location of the school you’re thinking about conducive to these internships? Or does it provide any initiatives to aid in your search for internships at cultural institutions?

4. Remarkable Alumni

A fine arts school’s alumni network and amount of successful graduates should impress you. This shows that building and later using professional relationships through the institution will be considerably simpler for you.

Simply click the school name to view admission statistics for any of the fine arts colleges mentioned below that catch your attention. Let’s go on to the rankings now.

Best Fine Arts Colleges in the US

The following institutions focus primarily on teaching art and design.

The Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Savannah College of Art and Design are the real standouts here—the fine arts colleges that frequently appear at the top of rankings year after year.

When you look through the list, you might note that certain schools have a tendency to be larger than some others and provide a greater range of program options.

1. California College of the Arts — San Francisco, CA

California College of the Arts — San Francisco, CA
California College of the Arts — San Francisco, CA

The main focus of California College of the Arts is on providing students with an arts education. It provides a selection of 20 fine arts majors and minors, including a customized major option for students who might have incredibly specialized interests.

The college’s faculty is very accomplished, and it frequently hosts writers, designers, and artists who are just passing through. Its student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1 is remarkably low.

  • Degrees available: BFA
  • 1,239 undergraduate students.
  • 78% acceptability

2. Maryland Institute College of Art — Baltimore, MD

The Maryland Institute College of Art offers 20 distinct art majors, several of which are multidisciplinary, like interdisciplinary sculpture and interactive arts. Students also have access to a variety of studio concentration options.

There are 291 working painters, designers, art historians, poets, and writers on the faculty of the institute. Additionally, it offers a remarkable 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

For those who want to study any of those artistic concentrations, MICA is a great option because it excels in graphic design, painting, and drawing.

  • Degrees available: BFA
  • 1,518 undergraduate students
  • Acceptance rate of 86%

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3. Pratt Institute — Brooklyn, NY

Degrees in Art & Design Education, Digital Arts, Film, Fine Arts, and Photography are available to students at the Pratt Institute. If you’re unsure if you want to enroll in a bachelor’s program, the institution also offers a number of associate degrees in the creative arts.

Overall, this college typically receives high rankings for its studio, design, and fine arts programs.

  • Degrees available: BFA
  • 3,675 undergraduate students.
  • Ratio of Acceptance: 62%

4. Rhode Island School of Design — Providence, RI

One of the most well-known and acclaimed institutions of higher learning for the fine arts in the nation is the Rhode Island School of Design, or RISD. It provides cutting-edge facilities and equipment in addition to 15 fine arts majors.

The university takes pleasure in giving its students lots of chances to collaborate with faculty mentors. Additionally, the faculty is highly excellent; many of them are well-known artists, such the well-known children’s book illustrator Chris Van Allsburg.

But Providence is believed to be one of the most aesthetically cultured cities in the country, making its location one of RISD’s main draws.

  • Degrees available: BFA
  • 2,000 undergraduate students
  • 19% acceptance rate

5. Savannah College of Art and Design — Savannah, GA

One of the most esteemed art and design schools in the country, Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, offers an astonishing array of undergraduate fine arts specialities. Almost any field you can imagine has a degree program available, including animation, visual effects, fabrics, and furniture design.

The school also boasts a strong faculty and alumni network, which is very advantageous when applying to graduate programs or jobs.

  • Degrees available: BA and BFA
  • 12,830 undergraduate students.
  • Acceptance rate of 81%

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6. School of the Art Institute of Chicago — Chicago, IL

One of the biggest art universities in the US is the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, or SAIC. Due to its size, it may provide some more specialized services, such as art therapy and visual communication.

With over 550 faculty members, SAIC may make it simpler for you to discover a professor or mentor who is passionate about the same things you are. One of the top art museums in the nation is also linked with the institute.

  • Degrees available: BA and BFA
  • 2,794 undergraduate students.
  • 78% acceptability

7. The New School — New York, NY

The New School, with its vibrant New York City location, is predominantly devoted to the arts. For students with an interest in the arts, it offers a variety of flexible degree programs as well as a BFA program in the fine arts through its highly respected Parsons School of Design.

  • Degrees available: BFA
  • Enrollment for undergraduates: 7,376
  • 78% acceptability

the best fine arts programs offered by other colleges and universities

Some excellent fine arts programs are given through the art departments of colleges and universities rather than at institutions dedicated to the fine arts. The major standout on this list is Yale, which offers both a top-notch general education and one of the best art programs in the nation.

For students looking for a better mix between a fine arts education and a general or liberal arts education, these options are probably better.

Keep in mind that acceptance rates and undergraduate enrollment figures pertain to the university overall rather than a specific fine arts department or program.

8. Alfred University — Alfred, NY

A curriculum that blends visual fine arts, design, and the science of ceramics, glass, and materials is offered by Alfred’s School of Art and Design. Although it has a narrower focus than many of the other fine arts colleges on this list, it’s still a fantastic option if you want to work with any of the materials mentioned above.

  • Degrees available: Offers a BFA and a BS in art history
  • 1,485 undergraduate students.
  • Ratio of Acceptance: 67%

9. Columbia University — New York, NY

In the center of the art world, New York City, Columbia’s School of the Arts provides a distinguished fine arts curriculum. With a long list of distinguished instructors and alumni, this program makes it simple for students to establish and grow both professional and social networks in the industry.

Drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, printing, and video are among the concentrations available to students at Columbia who major in visual arts.

  • Degrees available: BA
  • 8,148 undergraduate students
  • 6% acceptance rate

10. Cornell University — Ithaca, NY

A BFA program is available from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. This curriculum places a strong emphasis on artistic training, contextual readiness, critical thinking, expressiveness, a practical grasp of contemporary art, and sustainable practice.

The wide objectives of this BFA degree may give you a more liberal arts slant. Courses in digital media, illustration, painting, photography, and other topics are mandatory of all students.

  • Degrees available: BFA
  • Enrollment for undergraduates: 14,743
  • 11% acceptance rate

11. CUNY Hunter College — New York, NY

Students who aspire to pursue graduate studies as well as careers as professional artists can enroll in Hunter College’s art program. A prolonged, strong concentration on studio practice, contemporary art, and theoretical questions is provided to students in this fifth-year program.

You might finally benefit from this extra year in the workplace.

  • Degrees available: BFA
  • 15,543 undergraduate students.
  • Reception Rate: 46%

12. Princeton University — Princeton, NJ

Best Fine Arts Colleges in the US
Princeton University

The Visual Arts Program at Princeton combines a liberal arts and fine arts education. A variety of subjects are available for students to choose from, including media, sculpture, painting, drawing, graphic design, photography, and filmmaking.

  • Degrees available: BA
  • 5,321 undergraduate students.
  • Acceptance Rate: 4%

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13. Tufts University — Medford, MA

You can benefit from a top-notch liberal arts education along with studio art training by enrolling in a dual BFA program from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. Students are enrolled in full at both institutions and have access to all of their resources.

For students who value flexibility, this art program is a wonderful choice because the studio curriculum is totally elective, allowing you to pick and select the subjects that most appeal to you.

  • Degrees available: BFA
  • 6,676 undergraduate students.
  • 11% acceptance rate

14. University of California, Los Angeles — Los Angeles, CA

UCLA, one of the top public universities in the country, has a renowned art department. This program is highly flexible because it encourages students to experiment with many mediums and choose their preferred form of self-expression.

There are classes available in new genres, art theory, sculpture, photography, ceramics, painting and drawing, and photography.

  • Degrees available: BA
  • 32,119 undergraduate students
  • 11% acceptance rate

15. University of Pennsylvania — Philadelphia, PA

Through the Weitzman School of Design at Penn, a premier undergraduate fine arts degree is available. Its fine arts curriculum combines studio work, seminar courses, and exchanges with guest artists and industry experts. Courses on topics like sketching, sculpting techniques, and art history are offered to students.

  • Degrees available: BA
  • 9,962 undergraduate students.
  • 6% acceptance rate

16. Williams College — Williamstown, MA

Williams campus’s esteemed liberal arts campus has one of the largest art departments, which even shares space with the Williams Museum of Art. However, due to the school’s overall size, there are fewer and broader majors available, such as studio art, art history, and art history and practice.

  • Degrees available: BA
  • 2,166 undergraduate students
  • 9% acceptance rate

17. Yale University — New Haven, CT

The Yale School of Art also provides a range of courses in media and art. The school’s strength is further enhanced by the fact that it offers one of the best MFA programs in the nation. The faculty is highly regarded, and the majority of them have received accolades or publications for their work.

Students have access to art galleries, a silk screening print shop, photo laboratories, multiple theaters, and a digital media center, among other impressive amenities.

  • Degrees available: BA
  • 6,536 undergraduate students.
  • 5% acceptance rate
Best Fine Arts Colleges in the US
Best Fine Arts Colleges in the US

Frequently Asked Questions

Which degree fits the fine arts the best?

Bachelor of Fine Arts, or BFA, is a degree program for undergrads that focuses on the study of the performing or visual arts. The program is also known as Bachelor of Visual Arts (BVA), where the study of the visual arts covers topics including literature, animation, sculpture, painting, and more.

Do people want fine art?

Between 2021 and 2031, it is anticipated that overall employment of fine and craft artists would increase by 6%, which is about average for all occupations.

Is Fine Arts lucrative in the US?

A Fine Arts bachelor's degree entitles the holder to an annual salary of $59,000 on average, however experience and qualifications have a significant impact on pay. For those who are interested in studying the fine arts, there are numerous opportunities.

How many different kinds of fine arts exist?

Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and poetry were historically considered the five main fine arts, while theatre and dance were considered performing arts.

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