Academy of Art University

The Academy of Art University was established in San Francisco in 1929 by Richard S. Stephens, a fine art painter who had accepted the position of Creative Director for Sunset Magazine. Assisted by his wife, Mrs. Clara Stephens, he opened the new school in a rented loft at 215 Kearny Street to teach advertising art. In a few years, a distinguished faculty of practicing art and design professionals was assembled and the school’s philosophy was formulated: 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.

The University 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 over 30 areas of academic emphasis. Our Fashion School provides students with a global vision and a faculty of professionals who instruct, inspire and mentor utilizing their technical and design expertise while also encouraging the development of individual style. Students gain practical hands-on experience in their courses enabling them to confidently enter career paths in Fashion Design, Knitwear Design, Textile Design, Fashion Journalism, Fashion Styling, Merchandising and Visual Merchandising.


Renowned as one of the top fashion design schools in the nation, the School of Fashion provides students with unique opportunities to showcase their work to industry professionals and recruiters at the biannual fashion show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center in New York City. The Annual Graduation Fashion Show in San Francisco is another opportunity afforded Academy of Art University fashion students and has been heralded as the “Fashion Week of San Francisco” by both local and national members of the fashion industry. Fashion Journalism and Fashion Styling students work on the School of Fashion’s magazine projects and the Fashion School Daily Blog as well as on international publications and websites.

Head of School

Dr. Elisa Stephens, granddaughter of our school’s founder, succeeded her father as President of 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.

Courses Overview: Undergraduate and Postgraduate

Bachelor of Fine Arts Fashion
Bachelor of Fine Arts Fashion Styling
Bachelor of Arts Fashion Journalism
Associate of Arts
Master of Fine Arts Fashion
Master of Arts Fashion Journalism
Master of Fine Arts
Certificate Programs and Continuing Art Education courses


Noteworthy Alumni

Rick Baker, Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling and special effects for Maleficent, Kara Laricks, fashion designer, Lee Cheol-ha, film director, Lauren Conrad, actress, Heidi Montag, actress.

Life in San Francisco

Since 1929 we've called San Francisco home–come experiencewhat makes it the best place for creative minds. Find inspiration at one of San Francisco's many world-class art museums: Asian Art Museum, Contemporary Jewish Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Legion of Honor, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Beat Museum and many others.

Sell your work, attend an opening, or mingle with the creative crowd at any of our galleries in San Francisco. The Bay Area boasts a number of world-class theater and concert venues.Learn to get around San Francisco with any of the public transportation options, or find out more about the Academy of Art's free shuttle service.

Tuition and Scholarship Information

There are several options for students who need financial aid, find information on veteran affairs, work study programs, alternative loan options, and more by clicking here. For information on tuition fees click here.

Graduate Show