The 10 Best Art Schools in New York

Thanks to New York City, the Empire State has no shortage of amazing art schools. 

But that doesn’t mean students have to stay in the Big Apple to get a quality education. Greater New York state boasts some top-notch art schools, too.

Many of these institutions offer several levels of art programs, from associates to terminal degrees, and some even give high schoolers a chance to study on campus and see what art school life is all about. 

Students at a few schools will find opportunities to expand their studies into other subject areas thanks to interdisciplinary programs or to study abroad, spending a semester immersed in an artistically rich overseas environment.

Students interested in pursuing studies at art school will want to narrow down their focus and decide whether they simply want to study art, its history, and its role in society, or whether they want to become a working artist or designer. 

Where they end up for school may depend on their ultimate career goals, since some schools offer only certain programs.

Students also may want to consider what type of community they want to learn in. Schools in New York City, for instance, put students closer to major museums and galleries that they can check out on their down time or even part of class.

Below, we’ll break down 10 of the best art schools in New York, what type of degrees they offer, and much more.

School of Visual Arts (New York, NY)

School of Visual Arts
Beyond My Ken, SVA East 23rd, CC BY-SA 3.0

The School of Visual Arts, located in the heart of New York City, has something for every type of student.

In the Pre-College program, high-schoolers can further develop their artistic skills and work toward putting together a portfolio. 

That can help them prepare to join the school’s undergraduate program, in which they can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 11 specialties, from Animation and Film to Advertising and Interior Design. 

The school also offers undergraduate non-major programs.

At the graduate level, the options are even greater. Students can earn a Master of Arts in either Curatorial Practice or Design Research, Writing, and Criticism. Or, they can choose to earn a terminal degree, the Master of Fine Arts, in a dozen subjects.

Meanwhile, students who want to use art differently can pursue the Master of Professional Studies in subjects including Art Therapy, Directing, and Fashion Photography.

New York Academy of Art (New York, NY)

New York Academy of Art
Ameliasmith92, New York Academy of Art, CC BY-SA 4.0

The main program at the New York Academy of Art is the Master of Fine Arts. The two-year program consists of 60 credits, most of which students fulfill in studio artwork. 

Students choose from drawing, painting, or sculpture as a concentration but also can pursue tracks in printmaking or anatomy. Courses give them experience in both traditional and modern art.

Undergraduates interested in studying at NYAA can participate in its Summer Undergraduate Residency Program. This one-month residential program gives them added experience in the studio, where they can refine their technical skills as they prepare to one day join an MFA program.

NYAA also offers a Certificate of Fine Art, which involves an intense curriculum geared toward people interested in learning about drawing, painting, or sculpture in a studio environment. The 36-credit program takes one calendar year to complete.

Beginning artists interested in learning the basics of different mediums can join NYAA’s continuing education programs, which faculty members have offered live on Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic.     

SUNY Binghamton (Binghamton, NY)

Students can major or minor in art at SUNY Binghamton, which offers both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees.

In the BFA program, students focus on one of five mediums, such as drawing or graphic design, but also take classes in art history and electives. 

The program is designed for students who want to work as artists one day or move on to a graduate program. These students also must complete several studio courses before finishing their studies with the Senior Exhibition Seminar, which includes a display of their work.

The BA program, on the other hand, is geared for people who want to pursue a double major or gain some extra artistic skills through studio work. 

They can major in six areas, including photography, sculpture, and painting. Students also take art history classes but do not need to complete the Senior Exhibition Seminar.

Undergraduates who want to get some artistic experience can pursue the Studio Minor, a six-course studio program focusing on one of five artistic mediums. 

New York University (New York, NY)

New York University’s students hone their skills and expand their knowledge in the artistically rich East Village of Manhattan.

At its Steinhardt Department of Art and Art Professions, the university offers both Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degrees, which students earn through hands-on work as well as courses focusing on artistic theory. 

The university brings in well-known artists as well as critics and scholars to further students’ understanding of art and its place in the world.

Students also can choose to pursue a Master of Art in subjects such as Visual Arts Administration and Costume Studies. The school offers a doctorate in Art Therapy as well. 

No matter what they study, students also can take advantage of the numerous museums, theaters, and other artistic spaces that also call New York home, seeing firsthand artists at work.

SUNY Purchase School of Art + Design (Purchase, NY)

Students have lots of options for studying at SUNY Purchase School of Art + Design, located less than an hour from New York City.

In the Bachelor of Fine Arts program, students can choose from five majors, including Graphic Design, Sculpture, and Photography. Or, they can pursue the Visual Arts BFA, an interdisciplinary option in which students study two visual arts mediums.

Students interested in interdisciplinary studies can also pursue a Bachelor of Science in Visual Arts. They split their time between visual arts studies in the School of Art + Design and one or more other subjects in a different school.

The school also offers a Minor in Visual Arts for undergraduates majoring in other subjects. 

At the graduate level, Purchase offers an MFA in Visual Arts and a dual MFA in Visual Arts/MA in Art History program, with the history part offered through Purchase’s School of Humanities.

Syracuse University School of Art (Syracuse, NY)

The School of Art at Syracuse University has been graduating students since 1875. Today’s students can choose from seven undergraduate and graduate programs of study.

Syracuse offers three undergraduate Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, in Arts Education, Illustration, and Studio Arts. The school also has one Bachelor of Science program, also in Studio Arts. 

Undergraduates studying other subjects who still want to receive an arts education can pursue the Visual Culture minor or the Studio Arts minor. They can choose from intensives such as Ceramics, Jewelry and Metalsmithing, and Painting.

Graduate degree options include two Master of Fine Arts programs in Illustration and Studio Arts, and a Master of Science in Arts Education.

Throughout the year, students learn from faculty members still working and exhibiting in their fields as well as hear from more than 30 guest artists through Syracuse’s Visiting Artist Lecture Series.

Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (Ithaca, NY)

Cornell University of Art, Architecture, and Planning
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Milstein Hall, Cornell University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Students gain a well-rounded education in different artistic mediums through Cornell University’s undergraduate art program.

Redesigned in 2018, the Bachelor of Fine Arts program consists of two parts: an art section that includes seminars as well as studio courses in different artistic mediums, such as photography and painting. 

Students then round out their time at the university with electives from throughout the university to give them a well-rounded education. They also have a chance to study in semester-long programs at Cornell’s satellite campuses in New York City and Rome.

To earn the Master of Fine Arts degree, meanwhile, students spend two years in intensive study. Students learn not only from faculty in Ithaca but from two distinguished artistic mentors the department brings in each year, and they have opportunities for exhibiting their work as well.

Pratt Institute School of Design (Brooklyn, NY)

Students learn from world-class, award-winning professionals in the School of Art at the Pratt Institute School of Design.

The institute has two associate degree programs, which involve four semesters of study. Students can choose to study Graphic Design, Illustration, or Game Design and Interactive Media in the AOS program. 

The AAS degree, though, in which students can study Graphic Design/Illustration or Painting/Drawing, prepares students to transfer into Pratt’s BFA after they finish their associate degree.

Bachelor’s degree students, meanwhile, have six departments in which they can study everything from the traditional Fine Arts to more modern mediums, like Game Arts. 

The Art and Design Education path prepares students to become teachers themselves, whether it be in schools or for organizations like museums.

Graduate students can pursue studies in many of the same fields as undergraduates as well as a few others specific to the master’s program, including Arts and Cultural Management and Creative Arts Therapy.

The New School Parsons School of Design (New York, NY)

The New School Parsons School of Design
Beyond My Ken, Parsons David Schwartz Fashion Education Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

The New School Parsons School of Design has three levels of degrees available.

The Associate Degrees are geared toward “mature students” who do not have a background in design and gives them the knowledge they need to pursue careers in Communication Design, Interior Design, and Fashion.

Parsons has a dozen undergraduate majors to choose from, 11 of which end in Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. They include many different types of design, from Fashion to Architecture, as well as areas like Photography and Illustration. 

Or, students can pursue the Bachelor of Business Administration, which focuses on Strategic Design & Management, which Parsons offers both in New York and Paris.

The graduate program is even more diverse, with 20 degree programs. It also has a Master of Architecture program and a combined MArch/MFA focusing on Architecture and Lighting Design.

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (New York, NY)

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Public domain photo by Jim.henderson via Wikimedia Commons

Cooper Union’s School of Art has just one degree program, a Bachelor of Fine Arts that prepares students for careers as artists and designers. 

The student experience begins with a “Foundation Program,” in which they learn about different mediums and artistic concepts and techniques. 

In their sophomore year, students narrow their focus, choosing a discipline from areas like painting or photography. They take various studio courses as well as electives before moving on to more advanced study in their junior and senior years. 

In their final year, students also participate in the Senior Presentation, in which they exhibit their work for the public.

High school students can get a taste for the Cooper life during the Summer Art Intensive, in which students learn from professional artists and take in the sights of the New York City art world. 

The students focus on a specific type of art and build a portfolio they can then submit with their college applications.