History of the Academy


The American Academy of Art seeks to inspire in its students the desire to stretch their minds and talents and the determination to work hard at their art.

History_alumnThe American Academy of Art was founded in 1923 as a school for professional artists. Our classes have traditionally placed an emphasis on drawing and design based on the classical academic tradition. We are home to a distinguished faculty committed to providing our students with artistic skills and knowledge of contemporary tools and techniques. Today, the American Academy of Art continues to build on this strong reputation of educating successful professional artists.

Our curriculum is based on developing strong foundational skills and knowledge from which students can improve their abilities as they complete challenging projects of progressive difficulty. The Academy offers seven Bachelor of Fine Arts degree programs in illustration, design, 3-D modeling/animation, multimedia/web design, life drawing, painting with specializations in oil painting and watercolor painting and photography.

All of our students start their training with the foundation program. The foundation program helps students to develop the core skills of the visual arts. In Fundamentals of Art and Life Drawing, students learn figure drawing, composition, rendering, linear perspective and color theory. A variety of materials and techniques are introduced in these courses. Class projects give students experience in the full artistic process—from concept to sketch to thumbnail to finished work.

The Academy also places a high priority on studio time to practice and improve on the skills and concepts covered in the classroom.Students spend many hours each week with hands-on studio work as they learn to develop and convey visual images. In addition, studio time gives students an opportunity to apply their unique inventiveness within the framework of a traditional approach.

We also recognize our experienced faculty as one of our most valuable assets in the classroom. Our faculty is familiar with all stages of artistic development and able to provide guidance and encouragement to young artists. Classroom collaboration often results in greater creativity and inspiration. The students benefit from instruction and critique from faculty members who are invested in the students’ artistic growth.

We include a core of humanities and sciences courses as an essential component of our curriculum. We realize that a well-rounded knowledge of other disciplines of human achievement can fuel a more diverse approach to artistic thought and expression. Our humanities and sciences classes prepare students for negotiating the professional world with strong critical thinking, assertive problem solving and clear communication skills.

We are proud of the success of our graduates. Many of our alumni have established themselves in leadership positions in their fields. In the years that our students are with us, we make every effort to equip them for rewarding careers where they can have a positive impact on their culture and community.

When Frank Young Sr. founded the American Academy of Art in 1923, he was an internationally recognized authority in advertising design. He believed the Academy should “provide the best instructors, attract the best students, and neglect nothing that will help them to build successful careers.” The same goals and traditions hold true today. His son Frank Young Jr. managed the Academy from 1964 until 1970, when Clinton E. Frank, founder of Clinton E. Frank Inc. Advertising, took over as chief executive. Mr. Frank’s agency was widely known for its exceptional creative departments. Richard H. Otto, our current president, assumed the role of owner and president in 1992. During his tenure, he has established the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program. He has maintained the Academy’s tradition of excellence while developing new programs and initiatives to ensure the continuing quality of education for future generations.


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