The 10 Best “Hidden Gem” Art Schools in the US

7. Moore College of Art and Design (Philadelphia, PA)

Moore College of Art and Design
photo via Wikimedia Commons

The essence of the Moore experience is choosing a highly personalized atmosphere. Every student walks a unique path through their choice of major, collaboration with visiting artists, education under award-winning faculty, and pursuing unique experiences. While these descriptions may seem like generic art school lingo, it does feel more true at Moore College than at any other school. Novel, recent experiences hosted at Moore include an edible book party, an art project about pets, and even virtual art events throughout the last year.

One of Moore’s more unique programs is called Socially Engaged Art. Through this MFA program, students engage in critical thinking and practice when it comes to ethics in the arts. Graduates of this program gain a unique perspective when it comes to teaching art in schools and communities worldwide.

Graduates of the Moore program have been innovators in every field of art. Some of these graduates include Naomieh Jovin, a young award-winning photographer, Janet Biggs, a video artist who is also a Guggenheim recipient, and Kathy Butterly, a New York-based sculpture artist. Perhaps Moore’s most famous alumna is the musician and songwriter Pink, who attended Moore for a short period.

Moore College’s undergraduate program is entirely female, while its graduate program is coeducational. Established in 1848, Moore is among the oldest art schools in the entire nation. 

Interestingly, a recent Netflix short film features animation by Moore faculty, students, and alumni


6. Cleveland Institute of Art (Cleveland, OH)

Cleveland Institute of Art
photo via Wikimedia Commons

In 2015, the Princeton Review ranked the Cleveland Institute of Art a “Best Midwestern College,” making it the only independent art school designated in this ranking. Additionally, in 2018, Money Magazine ranked the Cleveland Institute of Art among the country’s best colleges of art

Cleveland Institute of Art is home to myriads of art specialties. Among the most cutting-edge majors at the Cleveland Institute of Art is the Game Design major, a program where students learn how to create art for video games and related media. In this unique degree, students learn about 3D modeling, augmented reality, animation, and programming. Graduates of this program have become successful game designers, animators, visual effects supervisors, and more.

Film is another cornerstone of the student experience, as this school is home to the Cleveland Cinematheque, a film theater existing for over 35 years known for screening artistic, foreign, and classic films alike.

In 2015, the Cleveland Institute of Art completed the construction of an incredible 248,000(!) square foot facility known as the George Gund Building. This remarkable complex includes numerous galleries, a theater, an atrium, a cafe, a library, and ample study spaces for students.

Graduates of the Cleveland Institute of Art have influenced every significant field of art. They include Brian Michael Bendis, a Marvel & DC Comics artist, Dana Schutz, a noted Brooklyn-based painter, and Jenny Scobel, a remarkable painter whose works have been auctioned at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.


5. Ringling College of Art and Design (Sarasota, FL)

Ringling is quickly rising the ranks, becoming more and more recognized for its outstanding arts education. Recent rankings include the #1 spot on Animation Career Review’s list of best Colleges for Animation. Additionally, Ringling was also ranked #2 nationally by the Art Career Project for their premiere Illustration major. 

Experiential learning is at the heart of the Ringling College experience, with students gaining tremendous pre-professional experience at the school before graduating into the real world. Some of Ringling’s best experiential learning programs include the Collaboratory, an initiative combining arts education with business. Through the Collaboratory, students learn about the fundamentals of arts as it applies to branding, product design, and addressing the artistic needs of a 21st-century business.

However, Ringling is not only about preparing students for career success; rather, Ringling focuses on fostering outstanding creative expression. This is evident in what the school dubs the “Ringling Effect,” a term describing the amalgamation of faculty, facility, and opportunity to help their students reach their highest artistic potential.

Ringling is home to one of the nation’s most impressive collections of art education texts, the Alfred R. Goldstein Library. This 46,000(!) square foot facility is home to nearly 100,000 texts and periodicals, as well as a 24-hour lab, café, study areas, and even four terraces with a view of the Whitaker Bayou. 


4. Pacific Northwest College of Art (Portland, OR)

Pacific Northwest College of Art
photo via Wikimedia Commons

A fine arts school located in one of the country’s most socially and artistically progressive cities, the Pacific Northwest College of Art is central to Portland’s intellectual life, frequently hosting cutting-edge exhibitions, shows, installations, and acclaimed guest artists from around the world.

One of PNCA’s special offerings is the Global Studios initiative, a special practicum where students can experience programs and internships internationally. Through the Global Studios Initiative, students from PNCA have participated in semester exchange programs in countries as varied as Japan, France, Australia, and Senegal.

The campus’s main building, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design, is home to state-of-the-art facilities for students to practice and create. After a $30 million renovation within the last decade, this facility is now complete with a glass-roofed atrium, art galleries, common spaces, and a flex space housing conferences and projects curated by students and faculty. 

In 2020, PNCA agreed to merge with Willamette University, a school ranked by US News among the top 75 liberal arts colleges in the entire country. This partnership will provide PNCA students an even wider assortment of academic classes and opportunities to supplement their fine arts education.

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