At Large  September 4, 2020  Anna Claire Mauney

The 10 Best Art Schools in the West

Created: Fri, 09/04/2020 - 09:54
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 a new series, Art & Object delves into the top art schools and programs in the U.S. From public universities with state-of-the-art studios to solely arts-focused colleges with flourishing overseas programs, this list runs the gamut. With this list, we are looking at the West.

This final top ten, showcasing the best art schools of the West, is distinct in a couple of ways. Diversity percentages are incredibly wide-ranging for this region. While the overall average remains standard, this listing includes the two most racially diverse schools of this series and one of the least.

Unlike any region so far, the largest racial group after white is typically evenly split between Asian American and Latinx students. It also features the only women’s college.

Additionally, this list includes the school whose graduates have the highest average salary of the series. And, another religious school is featured. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a majority of the schools in this listing are located in California and all but one of these are situated in or just outside of Los Angeles. Therefore many of these schools boast a deep connection with the LA art scene and its countless student opportunities. 

In terms of cost of tuition, net price for low-income students, acceptance rate, and even student body size, the schools of the West are relatively standard. That being said, these schools do stand out a bit in terms of the size of their visual and performing arts departments. The average number of graduates produced per year is relatively high and this seems to correlate with a higher degree of general departmental resources.

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 West. You can find our rankings for the SoutheastNortheast, Southwest, Midwest, 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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wikimedia commons, Why.architecture
Pomona College modern building aerial view
10. Pomona College, Claremont, CA

Pomona College is one of the smaller schools listed and is the most exclusive with a student body of 1,578 and an acceptance rate of 8 percent. Tuition at Pomona falls just shy of the top three most expensive schools in this list, at approximately $54,572. For students from the lowest-income households, this college is the most affordable. These students will pay an average of $5,832 for tuition, room, and board. 

The college offers a singular major or minor in art, within which students will select a specific media to receive training in. The program requires students to take classes in art history and contemporary practices. The whole system seems to encourage students to think deeply about their place within the tradition of art-making. Students may also devote themselves to art research. 
On average, the school produces twenty visual and performing arts graduates per year. This section of the student body is moderately diverse compared to other schools listed. These students are about 50 percent white and 37.5 percent male.

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wikimedia commons, Pastelitodepapa
BYU campus with mountains behind it
9. Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Brigham Young University (BYU) is the third-largest school listed in this top ten, with around 28,156 students and the acceptance rate is the third highest at 52 percent. BYU tuition is around $18,766. Compared to other in-state rates, it is relatively affordable. Compared to out-of-state, it is the most affordable. For students from the lowest-income households, BYU is also the fourth most affordable school with a tuition, room, and board fee of about $9,036. 

The Department of Art offers a minor, a BA with three tracks, and a focused or interdisciplinary BFA in Art. BYU also has a Department of Design, which features five programs in areas like animation or illustration, and a Department of Theatre and Media Arts  

BYU’s visual and performing arts program is the least racially diverse but has moderate gender diversity. Students in this program are 82.8 percent white and 35.1 percent male. As a private, religious institution affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this university offers a specific type of environment that many seek out but may not be appealing to others.

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Flickr, IBM Research
Brutalist architecture library building at night
8. University of California, San Diego

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is a relatively large school, with about 27,880 students. The in-state tuition, $14,415, is just shy of the top three most affordable schools listed. Out-of-state tuition is average for this list, at $44,169. UCSD is the fourth most affordable school for students from the lowest-income households. Tuition, room, and board costs around $8,692.

UCSD offers students the chance to earn a BA in Art History/Criticism, Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts, Media, Speculative Design, or Studio Art. 

UCSD’s visual and performing arts program has the second-lowest racial and gender diversity compared to other schools on this list. The student body is 65.5 percent white and 20.7 percent male. UCSD has the second-highest percentage of Latinx students at 17.2 percent.

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wikimedia commons, Keng Susumpow
Mount Rainer seen from the University of Washington campus with large fountain in foreground
7. University of Washington, Seattle

The University of Washington (UW) is the second-largest school listed with a student body of approximately 28,759. The school’s in-state tuition is the second most affordable at $11,465. Its out-of-state tuition falls just below average, at $38,166. For students from the lowest-income households, it is also the second most affordable, with students paying an average of $7,665 for tuition, room, and board. 

UW offers programs in art, design, and art history. The arts program features one BA in art and four areas within the major to concentrate. From 3D4M (3-dimensional forum) to interdisciplinary visuals arts, these categories offer unique opportunities. The design program offers a Bachelor of Design (BDes) in Industrial Design, Interaction Design, and Visual Communication Design. 

Each year, the visual and performing arts program produces around 266 graduates. The diversity of students enrolled in this UW program falls just below average in terms of both race and gender. Students are 47.3 percent white and 30.8 percent male.

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wikimedia commons, Sdkb
Scripps College lawn with yellow-leafed elm trees
6. Scripps College, Claremont, CA

Scripps College is the second-smallest school listed, with around 1,060 students, and it is the only primarily women’s college featured in this series. With a tuition of approximately $57,188, Scripps is the third most expensive school in this top ten compared to both in-state and out-of-state fees. For students from the lowest-income families, the institution is moderately priced compared to other schools listed.  These students pay around $14,610 for tuition, room, and board. 

As part of the five-institution network of Claremont Colleges, Scripps’ art program draws around 500 students yearly from across the network. The program offers 39 different classes that cover around ten mediums. Students may choose one of seven areas to concentrate in from ceramics to digital art. 

The visual and performing arts program at Scripps falls below average in terms of racial diversity and, as a women’s college, it has the lowest gender diversity. Students in this program are 65 percent white and zero percent male, though men can take select courses.

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flickr, Dale Cruse
Reed College main hall brick building
5. Reed College, Portland, OR

Reed College is a relatively small Portland school with around 1,408 students. Tuition at Reed is around $58,440. Compared to both in-state and out-of-state fees, it is the most expensive of these top ten schools. The rate is much lower for students from the lowest-income families but it is still the third most expensive school listed. These students pay around $20,446 for tuition, room and board. 

Reed’s Art Department features programs in art and art history. While students may focus on one or the other, they are still required to study both to some extent. Additionally, students from both sides come together to take a junior qualifying and a senior thesis exam. Art instruction is offered across seven types of media and art history courses cover western and non-western regions from ancient to contemporary periods. 

Reed’s visual and performing arts program falls in the bottom three for racial and gender diversity. Students in this program are 58.8 percent white and 29.4 percent male.

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ArtCenter College
young people sit under a large structure at night
4. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA

ArtCenter College of Design is relatively small with around 1,717 students. It has the highest acceptance rate of this top ten, 70 percent. Tuition at ArtCenter, $44,932, falls just above average compared to in-state rates and just below average compared to out-of-state. For students from the lowest-income households, it is the least affordable school. This demographic pays around $38,709 for tuition, room, and board. Graduates of ArtCenter tend to make around $53,600, far more than alumni from any other school.

ArtCenter offers nine programs in art and design from Fine Art to Advertisement. The school encourages diverse and unique learning experiences via studio work. From transdisciplinary studios to studios abroad, students are given concrete opportunities to collaborate with peers and faculty.

ArtCenter is one of the most racially diverse schools and has the highest possible gender diversity. Its student body is about 19.6 percent white and 50 percent male. The largest racial group enrolled in this school is Asian American, at 34.5 percent.

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wikimedia commons, Padsquad19
USC hall with many red flower beds and sidewalks
3. University of Southern California, Los Angeles

The University of Southern California (USC) is moderately sized with about 18,632 students and falls within the top three most exclusive schools on this list with an acceptance rate of 16 percent. With a tuition of $58,195, it is the second-most expensive school compared to in-state and out-of-state listings. For students from the lowest-income households, USC is moderately priced. These students pay around $14,777 for tuition, room and board.

USC’s Roski School of Art and Design produces around 660 undergraduates per year, far more than any other school listed. Roski offers a BA in Art, a BFA Art or Design, and nine studio art and design minors. The BA program and the Communications Design Minor both require crossover between Roski and other USC departments. The school directly connects students with internships. 

USC’s visual and performing arts program has slightly below average racial diversity but it is the second most diverse in terms of gender. Students here are about 52.8 percent white and 43 percent male. Asian American and Latinx students are nearly tied as the second-largest racial group, making up 13 and 13.4 percent respectively.

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wikimedia commons, Bobak Ha'Eri
CalArts sign on campus
2. California Institute of the Arts, Santa Clarita, CA

The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), located in Santa Clarita, is the smallest of this top ten with around 959 students. CalArts is moderately expensive compared to other schools listed. Standard tuition is about $51,466. For students from the lowest-income households, this is the second most expensive school. These students pay around $37,612 for tuition, room and board. 

CalArts offers eight distinct visual arts BFA programs. All students are required to complete general education requirements and there are many interdisciplinary opportunities. Any third- or fourth-year student may choose to pursue an Interschool Degree and more traditional Art BFA students can earn a Digital Art Minor.

CalArts has recently opened online access to any of its 2017 non-credit courses and Specializations via Coursera. These courses are free for any CalArts students, alumni, and employees. 

CalArts has the third-highest racial and gender diversity. Their students are approximately 36 percent white and 41 percent male. Latinx students make up 17 percent of the remaining population, Asian Americans make up 12 percent, and African Americans make up 7 percent.

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wikimedia commons, Alton
UCLA campus
1. University of California, Los Angeles

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is the largest school in this top ten with over 30,000 undergraduate students and it falls within the three most exclusive with an acceptance rate of 16 percent. UCLA’s in-state tuition, $13,240, makes it one of the three most affordable schools while out-of-state tuition, $42,994 falls just below average for this list. Students from the lowest-income households pay around $8,233, making UCLA the third most affordable school for this demographic.

UCLA offers a BA in art where students take foundational courses in six different media categories and then advance in whichever of these media they are most drawn to. 

The University is home to a wide range of top-notch resources. From the UCLA Art & Global Health think tank to the collection of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, which features 45,000 art pieces dating from the Renaissance to present. 

UCLA’s visual and performing arts program is one of the most racially diverse and has moderate gender diversity. These students are 41.7 percent white and 34.1 percent male.