Virginia Commonwealth University's School of the Arts, located in Richmond, Virginia, comprises sixteen programs and more than 3,000 students. With the inclusion of the campus in Qatar, come an additional 5 programs and another 214 students. It began as one night class taught by Theresa Pollak in the fall of 1928.


VCU School Of The Arts - VCUarts - Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts

The first important step in the expansion of the curriculum into an entirely new field was the opening in 1928 of the School of Art in a studio constructed in the loft of an old stable. The establishment of the School of Art resulted partly from the encouragement provided by an initial gift of $1,000 by Colonel Abraham Archibald Anderson, a wealthy New York artist; partly from gifts from Richmond citizens of $24,000; partly from a grant of financial assistance made by the State Department of Education; and partly from the willingness of the first teacher, Miss Theresa Pollak, to work in those early years without a salary guarantee.

Around the 1940s and 1950s the School of Arts began acquiring some recognition nationwide. A brochure issued by RPI about 1940 carried two photographs which had been published by Life magazine. The school has been for years one of the largest at RPI and its successor, Virginia Commonwealth University. Herbert J. Burgart, who became director about 1966-67 was quoted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch on March 23, 1969, as saying that his information was that it is the "largest professional art school in the country, with 1,200 full-time undergraduate students and 75 graduate students."

By 1970, the faculty had increased to 72 full-time and 24 part-time teachers. In 1971, the Pollak Building was named for Theresa Pollak, in honor of her selfless dedication to the school.


VCU School Of The Arts - VCUarts - Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts

VCUarts is ranked the #1 public university and #4 overall school of arts and design in the country by U.S. News & World Report

The following are overall rankings within the United States:

  • #1 - Sculpture
  • #4 - Fiber Arts (Craft/Material Studies)
  • #5 - Graphic Design
  • #5 - Glass (Craft/Material Studies)
  • #7 - Painting
  • #9 - Ceramics (Craft/Material Studies)
  • #10 - Metals/Jewelry (Craft/Material Studies)
  • #10 - Printmaking
  • #13 - Photography/Film
  • #14 - Multimedia/Visual Communications (Communication Arts, Photography & Film, and Kinetic Imaging)

The Department of Interior Design graduate program was ranked as the #4 Interior Design graduate program in the South and #6 nationally by the journal DesignIntelligence in its 2008 edition of "America's Best Architecture & Design Schools". The undergraduate program was ranked #5 regionally.

Departments and Programs

VCU School Of The Arts - Richmond Professionals Institute alumni artists' work showcased ...
  • Art Education
  • Art Foundation
  • Art History
  • Film BA (Cinema)
  • Communication Arts
  • Craft/Material Studies
  • Dance & Choreography
  • Fashion Design
  • Fashion Merchandising
  • Graphic Design
  • Interior Design
  • Kinetic Imaging
  • Music
  • Painting & Printmaking
  • Photography & Film
  • Sculpture + Extended Media
  • Theatre

VCU Qatar

VCU School Of The Arts - Diversity Statement - VCUarts Department of Dance ...

In 1996, a worldwide search began for universities that were regarded as the top schools in their fields, so that an educational center could be created in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar. In 1997, because it was the top ranked public university school of arts and design, VCU School of the Arts was contacted to determine its interest in offering some of the same programs offered on its Richmond campus to students in Doha, Qatar. Consequently, the Shaqab College of Design Arts operated by VCU opened its doors in fall of 1998 to a class of 33 female students enrolled in the equivalent of the Art Foundation Program. Today at VCU Qatar you can earn a BFA in Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Interior Design, or Painting and Printmaking, and a BA in Art History. The school also offers MFA in Design Studies.


Anderson Gallery

VCU's Anderson Gallery was established through a monetary gift given to the Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) in 1930 by Colonel Abraham Archibald Anderson (1847â€"1940). Colonel Anderson was a gentleman portrait artist who in Paris in 1890 founded the American Art Association, a mutual-aid society for art students [not to be confused with the American Art Association, an art gallery and auction house in Manhattan, New York City]. Anderson believed that Richmond would develop, with support, a thriving art community.

In 2013 Anderson Gallery director Ashley Kistler announced that the gallery would be closing in 2015. On May 12, 2015 The Richmond Times-Dispatch announced that Anderson Gallery was closed and that the Anderson Gallery collections would be moved to VCU's James Branch Cabell Library.

The Depot

In 2014 VCU School of the Arts for the first time presented student exhibitions at The Depot, a renovated former trolley station located on Richmond's Broad Street.

Institute of Contemporary Art

Due to open in 2017, the new Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA,VCUarts) has been designed by architect, Steven Holl. It will be positioned as the new gateway to the city of Richmond. The ICA will be a non-collecting institution. It will initiate programming and collaborate with other institutions around the world on traveling exhibitions and other events. The building will cost 35 million dollars.

The ICA will include a 30-foot tall gallery, a 240-plus seat performance space, classrooms, a café, and offices. The design incorporates many environmentally friendly elements, meeting LEED Platinum certification standards.


  • Hibbs, Henry (1973). A History of the Richmond Professional Institute. RPI Foundation by Whittet & Shepperson. 

Post a Comment