Rich history. Brilliant future.

The University of Iowa School of Art and Art History shaped the ways the arts are taught in higher education. In the 1920s, forward-thinking university leaders—President Walter Jessup and Graduate Dean Carl Seashore—implemented two radical and novel innovations: bringing prominent working artists onto the faculty, and allowing graduate students to submit creative work as final theses instead of scholarly dissertations. This approach, nicknamed the "Iowa Idea," gave rise to the MFA, the standard advanced arts degree worldwide.

The arts at Iowa flourished under this new philosophy, and in 1938 art department chair Lester Longman took the Iowa Idea and ran with it. In what today is the primary model for college-level art programs—but at the time was unheard of—he combined studio courses in the practice of art with scholarly courses in the history and theory of art, all as part of a liberal arts education. The School of Art and Art History was born, going on to hire groundbreaking faculty artists such as Grant Wood, Philip Guston, and Byron Burford, and to graduate celebrated artists such as Charles Ray, Elizabeth Catlett, and Ana Mendieta.

Because of the university's and State of Iowa's longstanding and ongoing commitment to the arts, today the School of Art and Art History—a unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences—occupies two architectural masterpieces designed by Steven Holl. The school offers the BA, BFA, and MFA degrees in studio art and the BA, MA, and PhD in art history. It still hires practicing artists and art history scholars with national and international reputations as leaders of their disciplines. And it continues to produce alumni who are shaping the future of art and art education.


Why Iowa?

Art is a holistic experience. So we teach it that way.

At Iowa, you'll develop your artistic voice—and explore how art has reflected and shaped cultural values around the world and through the centuries.

We combine studio art with art history, helping you build a solid foundation for lifelong learning, creative innovation, artistic excellence, and career success. That's the Iowa Idea.

  • Our faculty are working artist-scholars with national and international reputations as artistic innovators and academic leaders.
  • Our campus and community are filled with people who love art and ideas.
  • Our undergraduate and graduate students push disciplinary boundaries as they hone their skills and advance their knowledge.
  • Our home buildings are stunning works of art in themselves.
  • Our alumni enjoy careers as practicing artists, professors and teachers, museum directors and curators, theater artists, designers, entrepreneurs, and creative leaders in just about any field you can imagine.


# 23

National Ranking: Best Fine Arts Programs

U.S. News & World Report, 2020

# 7

National ranking: Printmaking

U.S. News & World Report, 2020

The Iowa experience

Our faculty enjoy national and international reputations as cutting-edge artists, groundbreaking scholars, and innovative educators.

Meet Our Faculty

Mission and history

The arts are central to our history—and essential to our future.

Learn More

Galleries and exhibitions

Our seven in-house galleries continually display the work of students, faculty, alumni, and friends.

Environmental health and safety policy

Your safety in our facilities is our top priority. Learn more about our safety policies.