Best Fine Arts Colleges & Master's Programs – U.S. News University Directory

Fine arts graduate programs provide advanced education in fields such as creative writing, music and theater. A fine arts education can prove very rewarding if you are truly dedicated to an art form, and the fine arts colleges listed below produce many exceptional art instructors, art historians, painters, writers, thespians and more. You can learn about the top fine arts graduate programs here at U.S. News University Directory.

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Fine Arts Ranked in 2012


Yale University

New Haven, CT

Founded in 1701, Yale University is a private Ivy League research university located in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale University holds the high-status of being the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. The School of Art offers fine art graduate degree programs in the areas of Graphic Design, Painting and Printmaking, Photography, and Sculpture.  Yale’s School of Art is a highly renowned fine arts program.


Rhode Island School of Design

Providence, RI

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was founded in 1877 as a private fine arts and design college.  The School of Design is located in Providence, Rhode Island. Within the Fine Arts Division are 10 departments of study, about 8 of which offer Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees. Notable Alumni include James Franco and Dale Chilhuly. RISD’s Fine Arts Division is one of the top schools for Fine Arts in the United States.


School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago, IL

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was established in 1866 as an independent school of art and design. Graduate Students seeking a MFA may follow Studio or Writing concentrations in about 15 different departments. SAIC is also referred to as the Chicago Art Institute and is located in Chicago, Illinois. SAIC has the largest school-museum campus in the United States, driving the school to stand as one of the best colleges for Fine Arts.


University of California--Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA

A public institution founded in 1882, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus opened in 1919. UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television(TFT) offers a variety of Graduate MFA programs that include Animation, Cinematography, Producers Programs, Production/Directing, and Screenwriting. Notable Alumni such as Francis Ford Coppola and Charles Burnett help to distinguish UCLA’s program as a premiere university for fine arts in the United States.


Virginia Commonwealth University

Richmond, VA

Established in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a public research university that resides on 143 urban acres in Richmond, Virginia. The School of the Arts at VCU is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.  Graduate degrees in Fine Arts may be obtained in the departments of Design, Theatre, and Fine Arts in over 15 specialized programs. The School of Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University is considered a prestigious institution and one of the best colleges for fine arts in the United States.


California Institute of the Arts

Valencia, CA

Founded in 1961, California Institute of the Arts (CALARTS) is a private institution located just over 30 miles NW of Los Angeles in Valencia, California. Fine Arts graduate programs can be obtained through all six individual schools at the institute. One of the most notable facilities at CALARTS is the Walt Disney Modular Theater, an indoor performance space funded by Lillian Disney.


Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh , PA

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) was assembled in 1967 as a private university residing on 144 urban acres in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The College of Fine Arts was founded in 1905 as the first comprehensive arts teaching institute in the United States. A graduate degree in fine arts may be obtained in two of the five schools within the College of Fine Arts and include the School of Drama and the School of Arts. Expansive facilities such as The Purnell Center for the Arts and the Regina Miller Gallery make it one of the best colleges for Fine Arts.


Cranbrook Academy of Art

Bloomfield Hills, MI

The Cranbrook Academy of Art is part of the Cranbrook Educational Community located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The Cranbrook Academy of Art is a graduate only institution with about 10 specialized programs. The Master of Fine Arts program is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and The National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Assigning all Academy of Art students their own personal studio space is just one reason the Crankbrook Academy is thought to be one of the best for Fine Arts in the country.


Maryland Institute College of Art

Baltimore, MD

Established in 1826 as a private art and design college, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is located in Baltimore, Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C.  At MICA students may obtain a master of fine arts degree in one of about 10 specialized programs that include Curatorial Practice, Photographic & Electronic Media, and Illustration Practice. Alumni of interest comprise students in architecture, art, and drawing and include William Downs, Jimmy Joe Roche, and Lesley Dill.


Columbia University

New York, NY

Founded in 1754, Columbia University is a private institution located in Manhattan, New York. The School of the Arts at Columbia University is a graduate professional school that offers Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing. The School of the Arts hosts the famous Columbia University Film Festival, (CUFF) featuring short films by graduate students in the Film Program. CUFF is widely recognized and is one of the many reasons the School of Arts is considered a top notch school for fine arts in the United States. 


Alfred University--New York State College of Ceramics

Alfred, NY

Established in 1836, Alfred University is a private institution located on 232 rural acres in Alfred, NY, approximately an hour and a half south of Rochester, NY. The School of Art and Design offers Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs in ceramic art, sculpture/dimensional studies and electronic integrated arts. While obtaining an MFA in sculpture/dimensional studies at the School of Art and Design students have the opportunity to use impressive facilities currently exceeding 6,000 square feet.


California College of the Arts

San Francisco, CA

California College of the Arts (CCA) was founded in 1907 as a private institution and now has two campuses in California, including the San Francisco campus and the Oakland campus. Graduate students are accepted into programs in the fall of each year and may pursue Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in the areas of fine arts, design, and writing. The college is known for its graduate student-run exhibition program, PLAySPACE that is run throughout The Paulette Long and Shepard Pollack Art Community.


Bard College

Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

A Private liberal arts institute founded in 1860, Bard College resides on 600 rural acres in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.  Its graduate fine arts programs are part of the International Center of Photography–Bard Program in Advanced Photographic Studies and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, which offers concentrations in a variety of programs including film and video, music and sound, painting, photography, sculpture, and writing. Bard College is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.


CUNY--Hunter College

New York, NY

Hunter College, Established in 1870 is a public university located in Manhattans Upper East side of New York. The Department of Art located within the School of Arts and Sciences offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in the field of studio art. Hunter College offers graduate students studio space for collaborative or independent work as well as two exhibition spaces, The Bertha & Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery and The MFA Gallery which are used to support the Art Department and the MFA program.


Temple University

Philadelphia, PA

Established in 1884, Temple University is a public research university that resides on 115 urban acres in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Tyler School of Art offers Master of Fine Art (MFA) degrees in over eight specialized programs and include ceramics, fibers, printmaking, and photography to name a few. The Tyler School of Art is home to Temple Contemporary and the Stella Elkins Tyler Galleries. Notable alumni include Janet Perr and Edgar Heap of Birds.


University of California--San Diego

La Jolla, CA

The University of California – San Diego (UCSD) is a public institution established in 1960. Students may obtain a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree through The Visual Arts Department as well as the Theatre and Dance Department in the Division of Arts and Humanities.  MFA degrees may be pursued in a variety of area specializations that include playwriting, visual arts, and stage management. UCSD’s theatres include the Mandell Weiss Center for the Performing Arts, the Arthur Wagner Theatre and Dance Studio 3.


Washington University in St. Louis

Saint Louis, MO

Founded in 1853 as an independent institution, Washington University resides on 2312 urban acres in St. Louis, Missouri. Students seeking Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees may enter the School of Arts and Sciences, which offers an MFA in writing as well as the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, offering an MFA in visual arts. Art on Campus, one of Washington University’s creative activity programs, allows sculpture/building installments to be integrated into the campus making it a highly recognized MFA program in the nation.  


Art Center College of Design

Pasadena, CA

The Art Center College of Design, also known as the Art Center is an independent institution established in 1930.  Located on 175 suburban acres in Pasadena, California, the Art Center has the motto “Learn to create.  Influence change,” a mission the college has been practicing for over 80 years.  Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees may be obtained through Graduate Art, Broadcast Cinema, and Graduate Media Design Practices programs. Of all graduate programs at the college, on average over 70% are enrolled to pursue MFA degrees.


Ohio State University

Columbus, OH

Founded in 1870, Ohio State University (OSU) is a public research university located on 1,765 urban acres in Columbus, Ohio. The College of Arts and Sciences has several departments providing students the opportunity to receive a Master in Fine Arts degree, including the Art, Dance, Design, and English departments. Well-known facilities such as the Urban Arts Space & Hopkins Hall Gallery contribute to making OSU a top college for Fine Arts in the nation.


School of Visual Arts

New York, NY

The School of Visual Arts (SVA), established in 1947 as a proprietary art school located in the area of Manhattan, New York City, New York. SVA’s graduate program has over 20 programs with over 12 specialized areas offering Master of Fine Arts degrees that include Art Criticism & Writing, Illustration and Visual Essay, and Interactional Design. The College presents over 50 exhibitions a year in the three galleries, the SVA Gallery, Visual Arts Gallery, and the Westside Gallery, making it a premiere university for Fine Arts in the country.


University of Wisconsin--Madison

Madison, WI

Founded in 1848, University of Wisconsin-Madison is a public research institution located on 936 urban acres in Madison, Wisconsin. The Arts Institute has 9 departments where students may obtain Master of Fine Arts degrees in specializations that include, Studio Art, Creative Writing, and Design Studies. University of Wisconsin has numerous performance venues, gallery space, museums, and libraries contributing to its prominent image as a top university for Fine Arts in the United States.


Arizona State University

Tempe, AZ

Arizona State University (ASU) is a public research university established in 1885 and is located in the Phoenix Metropolitan area of Arizona. The College of Arts and Science offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) with a specialty in creative writing.  The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts also offers MFA degrees with concentrations that include art, dance, and theatre and film. Research at the Herberger Institute Research Center is comprised of over 400 faculty and 5000 students with more than 43 academic programs and allied research centers.


Massachusetts College of Art

Boston, MA

Massachusetts College of Art and Design, also known as MassArt is a public college of visual and applied art established in 1873 in Boston, Massachusetts. Graduate studies at MassArt comprise almost 10 Master of Fine Arts specializations that include fine arts 2D, studio for interrelated media, and a summer MFA in fine arts program. The College of Art and Design has nine on-campus galleries available for student and guest exhibitions. The cutting-edge galleries at MassArt offer free admission to students as well as the public making it an education leader among fine arts colleges.


University of Georgia

Athens, GA

Established in 1785, the University of Georgia (commonly referred to at UGA) is a University System of Georgia intuition. UGA is one of the three oldest public universities in the United States and resides on 759 acres in the university town of Athens Georgia. The Arts at UGA offer Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in a wide variety of specializations in the Department of Theatre & Film Studies and the Lamar Dodd School of Art. Offering unique programs of study which are only obtainable by a handful of universities, UGA and the Dodd School of Art is considered a prestigious university for fine arts.


University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA

Founded in 1847, the University of Iowa (UI) is a public university residing on 1,900 urban acres in Iowa City, Iowa. Over 50 percent of students are enrolled at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), making it the largest of the 11 colleges at the university. Of the more than 50 graduate programs available at the college, master of fine arts seeking students may pursue more than 13 specialized areas of study that include nonfiction writing, dramaturgy and book arts.