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Marie Bashkirtseff, In the Studio, 1881, Dnipropetrovsk State Art Museum, Dnipropetrovsk.

Art school is a colloquial term for any educational institution (whether elementary, secondary, post-secondary/undergraduate, or graduate/postgraduate) with a primary focus on the visual arts, especially graphic design, illustration, painting, photography, and sculpture. They are distinguished from larger institutions which may also offer majors or degrees in the visual arts, but only as one part of a broad-based range of programs (such as the liberal arts and sciences). France's École des Beaux-Arts is perhaps the first model for such organized instruction, breaking with a tradition of master/apprentice instruction. If accredited as a college, most art schools grant a Bachelor of Fine Arts, B.A. or B.S. degree. Associates degrees and professional diploma programs are common as well.

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Art schools

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Art and design schools in the United States

Student Cast Painting after Nike. Mims Studios School of Fine Art, Southern Pines, NC.

In the U.S. Art and Design schools that offer BFA and/or MFA degrees break down into basic types with some overlap and variations. At the most fundamental is a small, private art or design school. Art Academy of Cincinnati, Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, O'More College of Design, Maine College of Art, Montserrat College of Art, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the Pacific Northwest College of Art, etc. would all be representative of that model. Add to that the larger private art schools, like the Rhode Island School of Design, Maryland Institute College of Art, Art Center College of Design, California College of the Arts, American Academy of Art in Chicago, IL, Regent University's School of Communications and the Arts, Savannah College of Art and Design, Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Pratt Institute, New York Academy of Art, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Otis College of Art and Design and The School of Visual Arts. Some of these schools belong to a consortium called AICAD (Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design). These schools differ from career schools in that they require a strong component of liberal arts courses in addition to art and design courses, providing a well-rounded college degree.

Life drawing class taught by Jerry Weiss (in red) at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, photo by Jim Falconer.

There are also partnerships between art schools and universities such as the The New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University, Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, the Rhode Island School of Design with Brown University, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in conjunction with Tufts University, Tyler School of Art at Temple University, or Herron School of Art at Indiana University. There is one state supported independent art school in the U.S., Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Cooper Union in New York City is the most prestigious of art schools, admitting 4%, with every student on full scholarship. The Yale School of Art at Yale University offers only graduate instruction in its two-year MFA programs. The Yale Daily News reported on Thursday, February 1, 2007 that the School had 1215 applications for its class of 2009, and would offer admission to fifty-five students.

Next up the scale in size would be a large art or design department, school, or college at a university. If it is a college, such as the College of Design[1] at Iowa State University, it would typically contain programs that teach studio art, graphic design, photography, architecture, landscape architecture, interior design or interior architecture, and art, design, and architecutral history areas. Sometimes these are simply the schools of Art, Architecture, and Design like at the College of Fine & Applied Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Yale School of Art. Some variations on that theme can be found. The essential element to know is that programs at universities tend to include more liberal arts courses and slightly less studio work compared to dedicated but independent schools of art.

The final and most common state supported or private program would be at a university or college. It is typically a BA program but might also be a BFA, MA, or MFA. These programs tend to emphasis a more general degree in art and do not require a major in a specific field but might offer concentrations. A concentration is not accepted by some accrediting or professional organizations as enough study in some fields for success as a professional. This is the case for graphic design, where typically the minimal degree is a BFA major in graphic design.

Many of the degree offering institutions do not offer intense training in classical realism and academic painting and drawing, although the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts is considered a collegiate version of this educational model. This gap is filled by Atelier art schools (schools located inside an artist's studio) or in separate locations, such as the New York Academy of Art, the National Academy of Design, the New York Studio School, the Art Students League of New York, established in 1875, and the Mims Studios School of Fine Art.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, an indefinite number of such institutions exist, differing in size, number and administration.

Perhaps those generally felt most applicable to the definition of 'art school', however, are the autonomous Colleges or Schools of Art offering courses across both further and higher education boundaries, of which there are approximately eighteen, under the banner of United Kingdom Art & Design Institutions Association. Others, whose existence ties in indelibly with that of larger, non-discipline-specific universities (such as the Slade School of Art) exist. Most art schools of either orientation are equipped to offer opportunities spanning from post-16 to postgraduate level.

The range of colleges span from predominantly further education establishments to research-led specialist institutes. The University of the Arts London, for example, is a federally structured institution that comprises six previously independent schools situated in London. These include Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion, and Wimbledon College of Art; others include the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths College, University of London, that each grant undergraduate and postgraduate awards under one collegiate arm. The Royal College of Art with its degree-awarding arm and singular focus on postgraduate awards being a most singular exception. University College Falmouth and Norwich University College of the Arts with their degree-awarding arms are another notable exception. The former Hornsey School of Art is now part of Middlesex University. The University of East London has an Institute for Performing Arts Development - IPAD.

Since the 1970s, degrees have replaced diplomas as the top-tier qualification in the field. In the case of wholly freestanding institutions, degree validation agreements in liaison with a university have long been the custom for B.A. (Hons) level upwards. There has been a general trend for all-encompassing Universities to offer programs in the visual arts, and formerly independent art schools have merged with polytechnics and universities to offer such degrees. A few art schools have taken on university status themselves; namely the aforementioned Royal College of Art and the University of the Arts London.

Most specialist institutions in the United Kingdom can trace their histories back to the 19th century or beyond, originating usually from government initiatives.

Online art schools

In recent years a number of art schools have begun to offer some or all of their curricula online, which by nature transcends national boundaries. Among these are The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online and Academy of Art University. When online courses require production of traditional drawings or other such materials, they are usually photographed or scanned for submission and review by instructors.

Art school culture

Art school culture has been portrayed in media such as Art School Confidential and Six Feet Under and may have existed in the past. However, this current portrayal could be classified as a stereotype. In contrast to that stereotype, professional art and design education accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design or offered by the members of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design incorporates rigorous liberal arts and general education requirements so that students receive an authentic college or university degree.

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