At Large  August 18, 2020  Anna Claire Mauney

The 10 Best Art Schools in the Southwest

Created: Tue, 08/18/2020 - 10:10
Author: chandra

In today's world, professionals versed in art and design are in high demand, particularly those who can use their skills in both the fine arts and commercial worlds. Those looking to embark on a career in the arts have a huge range of options for their training and education. In an on-going series, Art & Object delves into the top art schools and programs in the U.S.

Here, we look at the top ten schools of the Southwest, which tend to have visual and performing arts programs with a relatively high average of diversity compared to other regions in the U.S. Additionally, at almost every school, the largest racial group after White is Latinx. This is a departure from the Northeast and Midwest, where the second largest group is most often non-resident or Asian American. In the Southeast, this group is typically African American or an even split between African American and Latinx groups.

This region’s top ten has the broadest range in student body size. The largest school featured has 38,814 students. The smallest has just 113. Many of these schools are broadly focused colleges or universities that happen to have top tier art programs, rather than arts-focused schools. The programs offered at these institutions often encourage or require some degree of interdisciplinary studying. 

Two schools in this top ten are open-enrollment institutions, meaning their acceptance rate is essentially 100 percent. These two institutions are also the only arts-focused schools on the list. This region's top ten listings also features a private, Christian university.

To determine its final rankings, Art & Object's editorial staff weighed the following factors: school reputation, tuition, cost of living, scholarship opportunities, fields of study, degrees offered, course diversity, faculty expertise, alumni reputation, student body diversity, student life in general, surrounding art scene, cultural opportunities, and post-graduation career help. While Art & Object has strived to craft a list in the most objective manner possible, we recognize that measures of "best" could include many other factors. With that said, here are the Art & Object selections of the best art schools in the Southwest. You can find our rankings for the Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, West, and our overall Top Ten here.

*Note: LGBTQ+ individuals may not always be accurately represented in gender data reported by institutions and organizations.
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flickr, Cyndi and Dave
Southwestern University campus sign
10. Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX

Compared to other schools listed, Southwestern University is moderately priced, with a tuition of $43,560. Students from the lowest-income households pay about $18,757. On average, graduates make $37,000.

Located in Georgetown, Texas, the University is just a bus-ride away from bustling downtown Austin. With a student body of 1,367, Southwestern is small for a school that is not exclusively arts-focused. 

The Sarofim School of Fine Arts’ visual programs include Studio Art BAs, BFAs, and minors—either in Studio or Architecture and Design. While instruction is offered across six mediums, the three primary media are painting, sculpture, and ceramics. 

Southwestern’s New York Arts Program connects students interested in visual, performing, or communications art to semester-long apprenticeships in New York City.  Accepted students live in a five-story Chelsea townhouse. 

Southwestern’s visual and performing arts students are 70.6 percent white and 17.6 percent male, making this program one of the least diverse listed. Interestingly, the program also has the largest percentage of Latinx students, at 29.4 percent.

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University of Denver's Mary Reed Hall in the snow
9. The University of Denver

The University of Denver (DU) is just below average in terms of size at 11,614, and acceptance rate, 53 percent compared to other schools listed. It is the third most expensive school both in terms of standard tuition, $50,556, and the average rate students from the lowest-income families pay, $21,119. Visual and performing arts graduates of DU make approximately $38,000—which is relatively high. 

Students who pursue a BA in Art are required to complete a minor or an additional major. The program’s website description lists journalism, business, and art history as choices that, when combined with an art major, directly correlate to tangible career paths. DU places a big emphasis on community involvement through the arts. Whether it be via exploring other cultures or working with museums, students are encouraged to go outside of the university and find enrichment. 

DU’s visual and performing arts program is one of the least racially diverse and one of the most diverse in terms of gender. The students in this program are 66 percent white and 53.2 percent male.

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the city of Tucson from above at dusk
8. The Southwest University of Visual Arts, Tucson

The Southwest University of Visual Arts (SUVA), located in Tucson, is by far the smallest school listed with about 113 students. It is the third most affordable school with tuition of around $23,069. While an estimated fee is not listed for students from the lowest-income families, the school’s website does feature a net price calculator for aid and a variety of scholarships including one that all students with a GPA above 3.5 are automatically considered for. The University is open enrollment, meaning it essentially has a 100 percent acceptance rate. On average, graduates make the least of all schools listed at $30,000.

SUVA offers eight distinct undergraduate programs, from landscape architecture to animation. Students are also required to take foundations and general education courses. The school claims to place a big emphasis on keeping up with technology and career field changes. 

SUVA is by far the most diverse school in terms of race and lies within the top three for gender. The student body is approximately 40 percent white, 40 percent Latinx and 53 percent male.

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flickr, Bradley Gordon
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design main quad with flower beds and tower
7. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Lakewood, CO

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) is the fourth most affordable school listed, with a tuition of $23,198. Students from the lowest-income households pay about $22,362. The school has an open admissions policy, meaning they accept all or most applicants.

There are ten degree programs offered on campus and nine online. From Animation and Game Design to Fine Arts, the school has traditional and modern paths.

RMCAD’s competitive studio program, with twelve spaces that students may apply to work from, is a great opportunity for students to exhibit, critique, and connect with visiting artists and peers.

With a student body of approximately 675, RMCAD alumni often praise the school’s tight-knit community for both the support and networking it provides. The school is just below average in terms of both racial and gender diversity. In 2018, the student body was 60 percent white and 36 percent male.

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wikimedia commons, Jeffrey Beall
Colorado College's Cutler Hall
6. Colorado College, Colorado Springs

Colorado College has the lowest acceptance rate of this top ten, at 15 percent. The school is relatively small, with about 2,091 students. Tuition is around $55,470, making it the second-most expensive school listed. For students from the lowest-income families however, this school tends to be the most affordable. This demographic will pay approximately $5,659 for tuition, room, and board. 

Colorado art graduates make around $36,000. This falls just below the list’s average but well above the national average. 

Colorado offers a single, holistic art major that requires students to study aspects of art history, studio practice, integrative design and architecture, and museum studies for the first two years of school before selecting one of these four areas to concentrate in during their last two years. 

Colorado College is moderately diverse in terms of both gender and race. Students enrolled in the visual and performing arts programs are approximately 47 percent male and 57.9 percent white.

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Baylor University historic campus with statue
5. Baylor University, Waco, TX

Baylor University is moderately priced compared to other schools listed, at $45,542. For students from the lowest-income households, it is the most expensive school. These students pay approximately $26,321 for tuition, room, and board. On average, graduates end up with a relatively high salary of $38,000. 

Baylor offers nine areas of study including foundations, graphic design, and printmaking. They also have a robust art history program that places a big emphasis on out-of-classroom education. Their notable alumni work at companies like Walt Disney or are enrolled in top-tier graduate programs. 

Located in Waco, Texas, Baylor is above average in size, with around 14,000 students. As a private, Christian school, Baylor offers a specific type of environment that many seek out but may not be appealing to others. 

Its Visual and Performing Arts program’s diversity is below average in terms of both race and gender, with 69 percent white students and 31 percent male students.

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University of Texas Dallas reflecting pool surrounded by magnolias
4. The University of Texas at Dallas

The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) has around 15,294 students. Its in- and out-of-state tuitions, $13,034 and $33,876 respectively, place it in the three most affordable schools listed. Students from the lowest-income households pay about $10,028 for tuition, room, and board. UTD’s average graduate salary is within the top three amounts, $38,000. 

UTD offers nine different areas to hone in on within the Visual and Performing Arts Program. Students who wish to study fine arts are surrounded by those studying music, theater, and communications. They are encouraged to take advantage of this setup and interdisciplinary options are abundant. 

Notable alumni include Kouznetsova, founder of ArtMail, a subscription art service she founded just a few months after graduating. 

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is filled with museums and art centers. UTD’s Visual and Performing Arts students are the least diverse in terms of gender, with 53.1 percent male students, but are above average in terms of race, with 51 percent white students.

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flickr, channing.wu
Rice University campus
3. Rice University, Houston

Rice University is a small Houston school, with under 4,000 students. Rice is just shy of the top three most expensive schools listed, with a tuition of $47,350. For students from the lowest-income households, this university is the third most affordable, at $7,206. Visual and Performing Arts graduates make, on average, the highest salary—$40,000. 

Rice offers a BA in Visual and Dramatic Arts (VADA) with a concentration in film and photography, studio art, or theater. For the studio art concentration, in-depth training across five different mediums is available. Rice also has distinguished music, art history, and architecture programs separate from the VADA major. 

All VADA majors are required to participate in a junior year seminar and field trip—which may be national or international—designed to prepare students for professional life.

Rice has the highest gender diversity, with a 50/50 percentage split of male and female students. Its racial diversity is moderate, with 55.8 percent white students. 

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Arizona State University campus with sculptures
2. Arizona State University, Tempe

Arizona State University’s (ASU) in-state tuition is about $10,822, making it the most affordable school listed. Students from the lowest-income families typically pay the second-lowest rate, which is around $6,732 for tuition, room, and board. And visual arts graduates tend to make about $37,000, which ranks just below average for this list and well above average nationally. 

ASU has about 38,814 students. While other schools listed are similarly large, ASU seems to have the biggest art program. In 2018, it distributed 337 more art-related degrees than the second-largest school listed.

ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts offers 56 degrees, approximately 32 of these are visual-arts specific. From a BFA in Sculpture to a BA in Digital Culture, ASU offers a wide range of modern and traditional training and specialization in the arts.  This division of the university also has its own career services. 

ASU ranks slightly above average in both racial and gender diversity compared to other schools listed. Students enrolled in the visual and performing arts program are 52 percent white and 42.2 percent male.

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flickr, Jeff Gunn
University of Texas Austin main quad with tower
1. The University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) is the second-largest school listed and by far the most expensive. In-state tuition is $76,020 and out-of-state is $88,210. For students from the lowest-income families, the cost of tuition, room, and board is actually below average, at $11,333. Visual and performing arts graduates make the second-highest salary on average at $39,000.

UT Austin offers programs in Art History, Art Education and Studio Art. Within the Studio Art program, training is offered across five broad areas of interest rather than specific, singular mediums. 

UT Austin’s visual and performing arts student body is one of the most racially diverse but falls below average in terms of gender diversity. This segment of the student body is 52.9 percent white, 26.1 percent Latinx, and 33.3 percent male.