Founded by Richard S. Stephens in 1929, the Academy of Art University was first known as the Academy of Advertising Art; the largest privately funded art and design school in the United States. It is accredited with the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The school offers degrees at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels in 25 subjects. The Academy of Art University has been participating biannually in New York Fashion Week since 2005.
New York fashion week is the event for fashion designers and enthusiasts throughout the world. Last year’s NYFW might have been particularly special for 10 recent BFA and MFA graduates from the Academy of Art University. The diverse group of designers came from various places between New England and mainland China, to display five womenswear and two menswear collections at Skylight Clarkson Square. The work did not disappoint, even impressing fashion icon Ms. J Alexander of America’s Next Top Model fame. Designers had various personal inspirations from denim, to photography, to a beloved aunt’s passing. While each of the designers played heavily with light and form to create a collective “each collection has an individual spirit,” remarked Simon Ungless, Executive Director of the School of Fashion.
As a painter and editor for Sunset Magazine, Stephens had a passion for the arts. He maintained that any aspiring artist, if given proper instruction and discipline could become a professional. With that in mind he founded the Academy of Art University. He wanted to ensure that students wouldn’t get accepted by their portfolio alone. He believed the academy’s teachers should be professional artists, so students could garner real-world advice and practical instruction. The student body has grown from 8,000 to 12,600 under current president Elisa Stephens, Richard’s granddaughter. As technology and industry trends constantly change, so too does the Academy of Art University. By continuing to have graduate’s represented at vital events like New York Fashion Week, the academy keeps up to date, and stays in line with the original dream of its founder.