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MassArt's History

Photo from MassArt's archive of Massachusetts Normal School

Our Legacy

In 1873, the Massachusetts Normal Art School opened its doors in response to the Massachusetts Drawing Act, a progressive 1870 mandate requiring all cities in the Commonwealth of over 10,000 residents to include drawing in their public school curricula (“normal schools” were the precursors to teachers’ colleges). The Industrial Revolution was changing the way the world functioned, and mid-19th Century Bostonians believed that industry wasn’t the only way to build a stronger nation. Art, they felt certain, was also essential to growing a powerful country, a vital economy, and improving and advancing the well-being of citizens. London and Paris - thriving cities with grand museums and galleries - were compelling examples. 

At MassArt, we’ve always believed that art is an igniting force for positive change. From our earliest days, we’ve offered a bright gate where access to a world-class art education isn’t defined by economics or privilege. We’re committed to providing an education and the promise of a future based on talent, ambition, and drive. As the first publicly supported freestanding visual arts college in the US, we take great pride in our ability to nurture and support students with extraordinary creative promise, regardless of limitations in college prep opportunities, or financial status. 

Our reach is great. Through dynamic community partnerships in and around Boston, students gain real-world experience, and we bring art and design into the public sphere for multi-generational audiences. From designing exterior wrap for mobile medical vans, to delivering innovative workshops at schools and libraries, curating neighborhood art exhibitions and beautifying city fences, we bring art and design into spaces where access is otherwise limited. 

At MassArt we’ve held close to our original mission of providing an inclusive, academically excellent, rigorous curriculum that turns students into practicing professionals in their chosen fields. We seek individuals who are both independent and collaborative, and who recognize the importance of both.

MassArt is grounded in history, creativity, and foresight. Every era requires vision as part of its progress, and MassArt was founded on a vision of the future that included all citizens in its gaze. Started as a revolutionary idea, MassArt continues to look toward what is extraordinary and cutting-edge - and who will lead the way - in art, design, and education. Our students engage deeply with the world outside their studios and classrooms, and our community is broad, influential, and encompassing. MassArt is the Commonwealth’s art and design school, a place with wide reach, where the hardest, most important, and most rewarding work of our students, staff, and affiliates, is to keep our eyes open and continue expanding our vision.

Our 150th Anniversary