History of the College

Art has been a vital part of UNT since it was first taught in 1894, just four years after the institution was founded. Dr. Cora Stafford, an imaginative leader who served on the faculty and as director for four decades before retiring in 1964, played a major role in guiding the art program to the reputation it maintains today. Determined to keep the program aligned with new ideas, she hired young innovators on the faculty. These included James Prestini and Gyorgy Kepes, two early proponents in the U.S. of the Bauhaus system which endeavored to relate a new design approach to the world of technology and craft. Also on the faculty were Carlos Merida, the internationally known Guatemalan painter and muralist, as well as Octavio Medellin, the celebrated Mexican sculptor and painter. Students included Ray Gough, who became a noted interior designer and UNT professor, and O'Neil Ford, who became one of Texas' most famous architects.

Master’s degrees were initiated in the 1930s and the first M.S. degree in art was awarded in 1937 to Ms. Ann Bookman Williams, a long-time art teacher in the campus demonstration school. UNT's modern art program has been one of continual growth. After World War II, professional programs in advertising art, fashion design and interior design supplemented traditional studio and art education programs. Following an extensive study of the arts in Texas by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in the 1960s, UNT was designated as a major visual arts program in the state and was approved to offer the B.F.A., M.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees beginning in 1971. With the Southwest's demographic population shift in the late 1970s and early 1980s, enrollment increased dramatically. At the same time, the department's comprehensive art programs were being recognized for their quality.

By the mid-1980s, to meet the challenges of the future, the Department of Art faculty began discussing the possibility of reclassification as a separate school apart from the College of Arts and Sciences. An arts model for this already existed on campus in UNT’s world-renowned College of Music. A School of Visual Arts Advisory Board was formed with the assistance of Dallas businessman Raymond D. Nasher, Kimbell Art Museum director Ted Pillsbury, and members of the art and education community. That vision turned to reality in 1992 when the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board reclassified the Department of Art as the School of Visual Arts. In 2007, yet another formal stage of growth in the School and University was recognized when SOVA became the College of Visual Arts and Design. Today, CVAD is one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive visual arts programs, with more than 2,000 students enrolled.

The 21st century has brought major changes not only in population but also cultural facilities to the Dallas-Fort Worth region. The Dallas Arts District, the nation’s newest and largest, is complemented by the Museum District in Fort Worth. The Dragon Street, Deep Ellum and Bishop Arts Districts in Dallas blossom with commercial galleries, many of which are directed by and/or feature CVAD graduates. The Dallas and Fort Worth art and design communities provide students with valuable resources and expanded learning opportunities. Advertising, fashion, and interior design businesses, along with product design and retail establishments, as well as a wide variety of K–12 educational environments and government and non-governmental agencies provide partnership opportunities. CVAD graduates play leadership roles in museums, design companies and education agencies throughout the area.

CVAD’s academic programs are supported by research institutes including the Onstead Institute, the Print Research Institute of North Texas (P.R.I.N.T. Press), the Texas Fashion Collection, the Design Research Collaborative in Dallas (DRC), and the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute (CAMCSI), as well as an extensive visiting artist/scholar program. The UNT Galleries operate three student galleries on campus, a main gallery on campus and a gallery in Dallas. The UNT’s Institute for the Advancement of the Arts, Art in Public Places Program and UNT on the Square exhibition and performance facility enhance these opportunities.