Richard S. Stephens

The Academy of Art College was established in San Francisco in 1929 by Richard S. Stephens, a fine art painter and Creative Director for Sunset Magazine. Assisted by his wife, Mrs. Clara Stephens, he opened the new school in a rented loft at 215 Kearny St. to teach advertising art. Within a few years, a distinguished faculty of practicing art and design professionals helped formulate the school’s philosophy—hire established professionals to teach future professionals. In 1933 the curriculum was expanded to include fashion illustration, and in 1936 a fine art department was added.

Dr. Richard A. Stephens

Richard and Clara's son, Dr. Richard A. Stephens, moved into the role of President in 1951, and his guidance led to the expansion from 50 students to more than 5,000, with significant expansion of department majors. In 1966 the school was incorporated and granted authority to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education of the State of California. The graduate program was inaugurated in 1977 and approved by 1983.

Dr. Elisa Stephens

Dr. Elisa Stephens, granddaughter of our school’s founder, succeeded her father as President of the Academy of Art University in 1992. Dr. Stephens has been committed to expanding the Academy’s curriculum to stay current with new technologies and industry trends, as well as developing state-of-the-art facilities and resources. In 2004, the name of the school was changed from Academy of Art College to Academy of Art University in recognition of its depth, scope, and quality of education.

Today the Academy has more than 18,000 students, making it the largest private school of art and design in the country. Students now have the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Architecture (with “B’ARCH in candidacy status”), Associate of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Architecture, certificate programs, and continuing art education courses in more than 30 areas of study.


Facts

2002

Year we began offering online programs. Discover our online education program

70+

Student and alumni art shows and gallery exhibitions presented in San Francisco each year.