Photo: Lesley University
If you’re in the market for an advanced degree or certification in the visual arts, think Boston. The city’s long history of fostering the arts and artists and its rich educational tradition make this a natural choice for anybody interested in pursuing further training in the arts. A review of the available programs in this student-friendly city turned up 18 bricks-and-mortar institutions of higher learning offering specialized training in art, design, or photography, either in an art school setting or within a traditional academic institution. Alternatively, for those from out of state who can’t quite afford a traditional degree program, taking accredited online classes while living in Boston could be extremely beneficial and allow you to supplement your education while gaining residency.
Let’s look first at institutions offering undergraduate and graduate fine arts degrees — the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA). After that, we’ll focus on programs that offer a major or minor in art within a traditional undergraduate BA or BS degree program. You’ll see that some of the institutions also offer diplomas or certificates in art.
Fine Arts Programs
All art degree programs include a mixture of visual arts courses and liberal arts courses (like history or philosophy). Programs leading to the BFA typically place a greater emphasis on the study of art and design than study of the liberal arts, whereas BA programs include the study of visual arts within programs focused primarily on the liberal arts.
All Art Schools explains the difference:
- Bachelor of Fine Arts: A BFA requires that approximately two thirds of the course work focus on the creation and study of visual arts, and one third of the course work focus on liberal arts (history, literature, psychology, etc.).
- Bachelor of Arts: For a BA, the course work ratios are flipped, with a two thirds focus on liberal arts and one third focus on visual arts.
These ratios hold true across all establishments of higher learning. The type of degree, not the institution, determines the amount of visual arts to liberal arts you will study.
So, if you think you would prefer a bachelor’s level program focused more intensely on visual arts courses than general studies (your professional goals are a factor here), one of the programs listed in the section below may be just what you are looking for.
If you already have an undergraduate degree and you are considering more advanced study in the visual arts, one of the MFA programs discussed below might be the right choice for you. As you will see, many of the same educational institutions offering the BFA also provide graduate studies leading to the MFA degree. They can do so because they have the faculty and other resources needed to offer advanced post-graduate professional training in the visual arts.
Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Mass Art)
Mass Art was the first independent college of art and design in the United States, the first to grant an art degree. The College, founded in 1873, is a public institution offering the undergraduate BFA in over 20 specialty areas, including painting, print making, and photography. The college offers the MFA in 10 graduate programs, including 2D and 3D art, and photography. Its low-residency 2D/MFA program in Provincetown provides “a unique opportunity for self-directed artists to develop their work in an environment of natural beauty.” Mass Art offers a variety of certificate programs.
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Northeastern University, and Tufts University
Established in 1876, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, located beside the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, offers undergraduate (BFA in Studio Art) and graduate (MFA in Studio Art) degrees through Northeastern University and Tufts University. Undergraduate students at these universities complete their studio art courses at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and their academic course work at the university.
The Museum School collaborates with Northeastern and Tufts in offering combined degree programs as well. Students in these programs earn a BFA in studio art and BA or
BS in an academic discipline in 5 years.
The Museum School also offers a 4-year studio art program leading to a diploma, and a graduate certificate program for students who wish to develop a portfolio for use in applying to graduate school.
The Department of Art & Design at Northeastern also offers majors leading to the BA in Art, BFA in Digital Art, and BFA in Graphic Design. Undergraduate majors in this department can combine this major with a major in Computer Science or Creative Industries. In the university’s MFA program in Studio Art, all courses are taken in the Department of Art & Design.
Northeastern offers a certificate program in Digital Photography as well.
The Art Institute of Boston/Lesley University
Photo by Lesley University
The Art Institute of Boston (AIB), founded in 1912, became part of Lesley University in 1998. Students at AIB work with practicing artists and study in a variety of academic disciplines offered by the university. The institute offers the BFA degree in 6 specialty areas, including Fine Arts and Photography, as well as double majors in Design/Illustration, Design/Fine Arts, and Fine Arts/Illustration.
AIB undergraduates can study abroad in Italy, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Germany, and in various affiliated programs in the United States and Canada. Students complete internships in the junior or senior year.
On the graduate level, AIB offers a low-residency program leading to the MFA in Visual Arts, a full-residency MFA program in Photography, and 2-year advanced professional certificates in three specialties –Design, Illustration, and Animation.
School of Visual Arts/Boston University
The School of Visual Arts at Boston University is one of 3 schools within BU’s College of Fine Arts. Its undergraduate BFA program combines training in drawing, painting, and sculpture with study in the liberal arts. Painting and graphic design are 2 of the 6 degree programs for undergraduates.
The School of Visual Arts offers graduate training leading to the MFA in 5 areas and the MA in Studio Teaching, a program that provides students with studio experience in an academic program that meets state professional licensure requirements for teachers. Students can earn the BFA in graphic design, painting, or sculpture as well as the MA degree in studio teaching in 5 years.
The university also offers a 5-year double major program combining study in the College of Fine Arts and the College of Arts and Sciences. Another option for BU undergraduates is to combine a minor in visual arts with another major. Undergraduates in visual arts can study abroad in Venice, London, or Tuscany, and graduate students can study in Beijing, China.
Students in Suffolk University’s Fine Arts Program (BFA) can choose to focus on Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Illustration, or Interior Design. The college also offers three studio art minors in Foundation Studies (that is, studies focused on helping students develop visual thinking and communication), Graphic Design, and Fine Arts. Graphic Design students can study abroad in Florence, Venice, and Rome, and students of painting can study in Prague. Suffolk also offers an MA program and a certificate program in Graphic Design.
Emmanuel College, a Catholic liberal arts and sciences college, is located near the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Gardener Museum. The college offers undergraduate majors in Studio Art (leading to the BA or BFA – an individually designed major) and Graphic Design and Technology (BFA), as well as a minor in photography. Students at Emmanuel can take studio courses in some specialties at the Massachusetts College of Art. Most students participate in internships.
New England Institute of Art
New England Institute of Art, a for-profit educational institution, originally founded as a school of broadcasting, offers the BS degree in Graphic Design.
Majors, Minors, and Concentrations in Studio Art, Design, & Photography
If you’re interested in furthering your study of art but would like to obtain a traditional bachelor’s degree rather than a fine arts degree (see the discussion above), one of the following programs might be the best choice for you. These programs offer majors, minors, and concentrations in art leading to the BA or BS degree.
Boston College - Major and minor in Studio Art
Bunker Hill Community College - Associate in Arts degree with a Fine Arts Concentration
Emerson College - Minors in Photography and in Visual Studies and the Arts.
Harvard University - Concentration in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies (VES)
Lasell College - Major in Graphic Design
Mount Ida College - Major and minor in Graphic Design
Simmons College - Major or minor in art, minor in photography, Design Track in communication
University of Massachusetts, Boston -Major in art, with Studio Art Track
Wheelock College - Arts Major with Visual Arts Focus
A Final Plug for Boston
Your interests and career aspirations will be your best guides in selecting the particular degree you wish to pursue. But whatever degree you choose, be sure to check out all that Boston has to offer to aspiring artists and art professionals. Boston is an exciting metropolis, rich in educational resources, with wonderful museums, galleries, a vibrant artist community, and businesses, like ArtVenue, interested in promoting the arts and artists. We wish you success in finding a program that will foster your unique talents and aspirations and fire your passion!