The Best Art Schools in Philadelphia

If you are passionate about art, you may consider pursuing a career as a professional artist. 

Earning a degree in art is one of the best ways that you can jumpstart a long, successful career in a field that is notoriously difficult to break into.

Even those who already feel quite confident in their artistic abilities can hugely benefit from attending art school. 

In addition to the fact that a formal education in art is immensely appealing to future potential employers, going to art school can also help students explore new mediums, develop invaluable network connections, and learn how to use technology to enhance their personal style.

Choosing which art school to attend out of all of the many amazing options out there can be difficult and stressful for many students. 

With so many different things to consider — from where a school is located, the size of the student body, what course offerings there are, and so on — selecting just one art school may seem nearly impossible. 

For students in the process of choosing a great art school, we have compiled the following list of some of the best options the city of Philadelphia offers.

Without further ado, here are six of the best art schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Difference engine, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts building, CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts was the first art school in the United States. 

One aspect of PAFA that sets it apart from many other art schools is that it is not just an excellent academy for the arts, but also a museum — the country’s very first art museum, in fact. 

A designated national historic landmark since 1975, the PAFA museum is a treasured piece of Philadelphia’s history and the heart and soul of PAFA.  

PAFA offers fine arts degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

The Academy also maintains a vast collection of fine American artworks and regularly hosts exhibitions featuring a balance of pieces by contemporary and historic artists. 

Each year, students have the opportunity to see their works hung for all to see on the walls of the school’s highly revered museum at the Annual Student Exhibition

On top of being one of the most highly-anticipated, highly-attended student art shows in the country, the ASE is also an opportunity for students to sell their pieces and compete for esteemed scholarships.

Emphasizing the importance of both understanding traditions and critiquing them, PAFA provides students in all programs with extensive training in the fundamentals of traditional studio art, simultaneously allowing students to have significant creative freedom to develop their unique artistic voices. 

University of the Arts

University of the Arts
Beyond My Ken, University of the Arts Dorrance Hamilton Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0

Created in 1876 following the merging of two pre-existing institutions — the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts and the Philadelphia College of Art — the University of Arts is among the country’s oldest and best art schools. 

Since the school was founded well over a century ago, UArts has remained consistent in its mission to promote creativity in humankind broadly. 

In fact, it was the first school to offer a PhD program specifically in creativity. 

One benefit of attending the University of the Arts is that the school has a partnership with Thomas Jefferson University that allows all undergraduate students at either school to take certain courses at the other school at no additional cost. 

Through this collaboration, students at the University of the Arts are able to take a wide array of courses, allowing them to pursue their interests outside of the fine arts and customize their plan of study to incorporate interdisciplinary perspectives.

At UArts, art students are permitted to choose from among 20 different minors across various academic disciplines, allowing them to study multiple creative disciplines throughout their undergraduate education.

Undergraduate students can either earn a BM or BFA degree in any of the school’s 26 areas of study. 

Options for majors include product design, sculpture, game art, illustration, photography, expanded drawing & print media, and many others. 

Temple University Tyler School of Art & Architecture

Temple University, a large public research university located in downtown Philadelphia, is home to the highly-esteemed Tyler School of Art and Architecture

The Tyler School of Art and Architecture offers a vast array of academic programs, with over 36 different undergraduate and graduate degree programs. 

From the BFA in fibers and material studies, to the MS in city and regional planning, and everything in between, students at this school have no shortage of options from which to choose.

In addition to having such a broad selection of program offerings, another key aspect of Tyler that makes it a stellar art school is its state-of-the-art facilities.

Most of Tyler’s art courses take place at the school’s 255,000-square-foot building on Temple University’s main campus in Philadelphia. 

Facilities include a plethora of classrooms, lecture halls, and spaces for student collaboration, exhibition, and studio work.

Other facilities on Tyler’s campus include a cafe, an academic advising center, and a large, grassy courtyard that students can use for relaxing or sketching in the fresh air. 

Tyler is also the home of Temple Contemporary, the school’s center for public outreach programs and events, such as exhibitions, panel discussions, and student shows.

Drexel University Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

A part of Drexel University, the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design is an art school dedicated to preparing aspiring creatives for careers in the arts, specifically in media, performance, design, and the visual arts as a whole.

Drexel University has been a cooperative education institution since 1919, meaning that as a required part of their degree program, all undergraduate students at the school are assigned to work a real job in the field of their choice for six months prior to graduating. 

In other words, attending the Westphal College of Media Arts and Design ensures that students have the opportunity to experience a day in the life of their dream profession before graduating and diving headfirst into the workforce. 

The Westphal College’s art programs — including both undergraduate and graduate — consist primarily of studio courses, giving students ample opportunities to learn by doing and hone their technical skills. 

In addition, the school maintains small class sizes so that students can receive one-on-one support from instructors and form close academic relationships with their peers.

Westphal boasts a very accomplished faculty, many members of which have established themselves as leading experts in the industry. The highly distinguished achievements of 

Westphal’s faculty have won Emmy Awards, taken leadership positions at major media companies, designed collections for world-class fashion houses, and so much more.

Hussian College

Hussian College is yet another stellar art school in the “City of Brotherly Love.” 

Located in the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia, Hussian College offers BFA degree programs in art.

Art students at Hussian can choose one of three areas of concentration: visual communications, digital media, and user interface & experience. 

Hussian’s approach to undergraduate art education emphasizes career preparation and hands-on, experiential learning. 

All Hussian students receive a full four years of professional development training through their degree program, providing them with confidence in their professional capabilities following graduation.

From their first year at the school, Hussian students take courses on digital art and tech, providing them with highly marketable, in-demand skills required for careers in game design, web design, and mobile app development, to give just a few examples. 

In addition to the main campus in Pennsylvania, Hussian also has a branch campus located in Los Angeles, CA. 

Known as Hussian College in Studio LA, the branch campus offers a wider variety of BFA programs. 

BFA majors offered at Studio LA, but not the main campus, include commercial dance, contemporary musical theatre and film, and film and digital content. 

In addition, the branch campus also offers a handful of BA and graduate degree programs. 

Saint Joseph’s University

Established in 1851, Saint Joseph’s University is a private Jesuit Catholic school with strong programs and course offerings in art. 

A part of the university’s College of Arts & Sciences, the Art & Art History Department at Saint Joseph’s offers a variety of lecture- and studio-based art classes. 

Art program curriculum includes extensive study of the history of art in order for students to gain a deep, well-informed understanding of the art world. 

Undergraduate students in Saint Joseph’s art degree programs have three different major options: art, art history, and art education. 

Art minors offered at the school include art, art history, art therapy, graphic design, and commercial photography. 

Saint Joseph’s also provides art students with plenty of opportunities to showcase their work on campus, such as the annual Senior Art Exhibit

The school is home to two gallery spaces for displaying works by not just students, but also professional artists and department faculty members, many of whom are widely-celebrated artists themselves.

Art & Art History Department facilities include three large art buildings featuring numerous classrooms, lecture halls, and various kinds of studios for student use. 

In addition to studio rooms for painting, drawing, and sculpting, the school has spaces for students to practice darkroom photography, digital photography, and graphic design.