Art school

An art school is an educational institution with a primary focus on the visual arts, including fine art, especially illustration, painting, photography, sculpture, and graphic design. Art schools can offer elementary, secondary, post-secondary, or undergraduate programs, and can also offer a broad-based range of programs (such as the liberal arts and sciences). There have been six major periods of art school curricula,[1] and each one has had its own hand in developing modern institutions worldwide throughout all levels of education. Art schools have also created a variety of non-academic skills for many students as well.

History of art school

There have been six definitive curriculum throughout the history of art schools. These include “Apprentice, Academic, Formalist, Expressive, Conceptual, and Professional”.[1] Each of these curricula have aided not only the way that modern art schools teach, but how students learn about art as well.

Art schools began being perceived as legitimate universities in the 1980s.[2] Before this, any art programs were used purely as extracurricular activities, and there were no methods of grading works. After the 1980s, however, art programs were integrated into many different kinds of schools and universities as legitimate courses that could be evaluated. While some argue that this has weakened creativity among modern art students, others see this as a way to treat fine arts equally in comparison with other subjects.[3]

Apprentice Curriculum

Apprentice paths teach art as a mixture of aesthetic and function. Typically, a student would apprentice to someone who was already skilled in some sort of trade in exchange for food and housing. Many of the Old Masters were trained in this manner, copying or painting in the style of their teacher in order to learn the trade. Once the apprenticeship ends, the student would have to prove what they learned by creating what we know today as a masterpiece. In modern schooling, this can be seen in practical art classes, including photography or printmaking.[1]

Academic Curriculum

Academic curricula began during the sixteenth-century Italian Renaissance, in which some of the earliest art academies were established. Up through the nineteenth century, these academies multiplied through both Europe and North America. This is when art began to become about both talent and intellect.[1]

Formalist Curriculum

The formalist curriculum began mid-twentieth century, and focused on the basic components of artwork, such as "color, shape, texture, line - and a concern with the particular properties of a material or medium".[1] This curriculum is most noted for including the height in popularity of Bauhaus. It was based on logic, mathematics, and Neoplatonism, which was universal at the time.[1]

Expressive Curriculum

Although the expressive curriculum was formed at the same time as the formalist one, it focuses on completely different aspects of art. Rather than being concerned with the literal components of a piece of art, expressive curricula encouraged students to express their emotions and practice spontaneity. This is due to the heightened popularity of romanticism throughout the Renaissance.[1]

Conceptual Curriculum

The conceptual curriculum began in late twentieth century, and it focused on not only creating artwork, but presenting and describing the thought process behind the work. This is when the idea of critiquing others' works for educational purposes became popularized in North America (as the concept had been shut down quickly in Europe). This serves as a model for modern-day art school programs.[1]

Professional Curriculum

Professional curricula began appearing in art schools at the very end of the twentieths century. They teach students artistry from a perspective of business, and typically focus on modern pop culture within the works themselves. These programs are designed to teach students how to promote both themselves and their artwork.

Modern art schools[2]

A wide variety of art mediums and styles are integrated into modern art school programs. Different mediums that are taught include painting, printmaking, drawing and illustration, theatre, and sculpture. Newer programs can, but do not always, include graphic design, filmmaking, graffiti art, and possibly certain kinds of digital media.

Art schools in early education

According to the International Journal of Art and Design Education, "mainstream educational contexts could foster drawing behaviour and the related emotional benefits to a greater extent".[4] Throughout a study done in the United Kingdom, it was determined that children whose parents/guardians involved them in drawing from an early age had a stronger connection with art. These children were shown to have better art skills and a significantly better chance at pursuing a career in fine arts.

Art schools and mental health

A study done by Bryan Goodwin that was focusing the Mozart Effect, which refers to the idea that listening to classical music is beneficial toward mental and intellectual development, discovered that while there was little correlation between arts and academic achievement, art education is still useful to students of any age.[5] It was discovered that learning both music and art within one's education were helpful in processing symptoms for sufferers of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.[5]

Notable art schools[6][7][8]

North America

United States of America[6]

South America[2]





Art schools in Australia are mostly located within Australian universities as a result of the Dawkins higher education reforms of the late 1980s.[11] Prior to the Dawkins reforms, there was a mix of university-based art schools and single-discipline colleges of art.[12] Art schools are now represented by the peak body, the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS), which was founded in 1981 and was originally called the National Council of Heads of Art and Design Schools.[13] ACUADS has 30 members:[14]

There are other art schools in Australia, such as the Julian Ashton Art School, but they are either not accredited by TEQSA to award degrees or are private, for-profit institutions that sit outside the university system.[15]


  1. Houghton, Nicholas. “Six into One: The Contradictory Art School Curriculum and How It Came About.” International Journal of Art & Design Education, vol. 35, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 107–120.
  2. de Araújo, Gustavo Cunha. “The Arts in Brazilian Public Schools: Analysis of an Art Education Experience in Mato Grosso State, Brazil.” Arts Education Policy Review, vol. 119, no. 3, July 2018, pp. 158–171.
  3. Clarke, Angela, and Shane Hulbert. “Envisioning the Future: Working toward Sustainability in Fine Art Education.” International Journal of Art & Design Education, vol. 35, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 36–50.
  4. Burkitt, Esther, and Ruth Lowry. “Attitudes and Practices That Shape Children’s Drawing Behaviour in Mainstream and Performing Arts Schools.” International Journal of Art & Design Education, vol. 34, no. 1, Feb. 2015, pp. 25–43.
  5. Goodwin, Bryan, and Eric Hubler. “Does Arts Education Matter? ‘Zombie’ Findings aside, Arts Education Has Unique Benefits for Students.” Educational Leadership, vol. 76, no. 4, Dec. 2018, pp. 83–84.
  6. “Art Schools.” Art in America, vol. 106, no. 7, Art in America, LLC, 2018, pp. 257–266.
  7. "Art schools.” Art in America, vol. 105, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 94–100.
  8. “Art Schools.” Art in America, vol. 106, no. 3, Mar. 2018, pp. 118–124.
  9. Yanyan Liao & Tom Fisher. “The ‘Real Art School’: The Cultural Roots of Authenticity in Art Schools in the UK and China.” The Design Journal, 21:3, 331-348.
  10. Chappell, Duncan. “The Early History and Collections of Glasgow School of Art Library 1845–1945.” Library & Information History, vol. 32, no. 3, Aug. 2016, pp. 161–178.
  11. Wilson, Jenny (2018). Artists in the university: Positioning artistic research in higher education. Singapore: Springer. p. 24. ISBN 978-981-10-5773-1.
  12. Harman, G.S.; Miller, A.H.; Bennett, D.J.; Anderson, B.I., eds. (1980). Academia becalmed: Australian tertiary education in the aftermath of expansion. Canberra, ACT: Australian National University Press. p. 201. ISBN 0708113648. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  13. "About — The Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools". Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  14. "Member Directory — The Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools". Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  15. "Mapping Australian higher education 2018" (PDF). Grattan Institute. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
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