A group of artists banded together in 1875. They were students at the National Academy of Design in NYC, primarily women. They decided that they wanted to start a new art school after rumors that their school was going to close due to budget problems. Many also felt that the Academy’s education was too traditional and conservative. Their new school was called the Art Students League.
Courses were funded by membership fees alone. This made them the only independent art school in the country. It was important that all of the studios remain autonomous and directed by the instructors without any interference from the administration. It still maintains this model to this day. This allows the students to build their own educations based on a variety of classes. There was a lot of modern appeal for this model of schooling and the school drew teachers from all across the country.
The League has committed to train artists who wish to become professionals. Their training programs support over 300 artists a year. They also have programs to help teach under-served youth in NYC recreation centers. They also train sculptors to create public works for the NYC parks. One final program positions students work in public places for display. They have raised more than $100,000 through this program.
To this day, the school does not have a set curriculum or degree program. They focus on providing a hands-on curriculum to anyone that’s serious about developing as an artist. One can take full time classes that involve two classes per week in direct contact with a teacher and more classes solo. Part time classes involve less solo time and more time working directly with a teacher.