Carnegie Mellon University

A Rich History

Founded in 1905, the College of Fine Arts (CFA) was one of the first comprehensive arts teaching institutes in the United States.

Quickly, Carnegie Mellon's CFA became one of the nation's — and the world's — leaders in architecture, art, design, drama and music. Our alumni make a difference in their fields every day.

Well into its second century, CFA continues to set the standards for excellence in professional education within a top-tier research university setting. Every day, our students, faculty and staff bring a special energy to Carnegie Mellon, the region, the nation and the world with projects and performances of beauty and power. The entire university takes great pride in the creative contributions of our students, faculty, staff and alumni to the arts, architecture and design in America and around the world.

Notable events in CFA’s history:

  • 1905 The School of Fine and Applied Arts is founded.
  • 1907 Two years after offering only architecture courses, the School of Applied Design expands to include applied design and interior decoration.
  • 1911 The Department of Painting and Illustration is established.
  • 1912 Music becomes a program of instruction at the School of Fine and Applied Arts. The cornerstone is laid for the Applied Design building (now the College of Fine Arts building).
  • 1914 The Department of Drama is established.
  • 1917 Upon completion of the Applied Design building, only one of its planned five niches — the Renaissance — was fully carved. The remaining niches would stand unfinished for more than 70 years.
  • 1918 The Department of Applied Design is renamed the Division of the Arts.
  • 1921 The Division of the Arts is renamed the College of Fine Arts.
  • 1925 Programs in ceramics, printmaking and metal crafts are absorbed by the Department of Painting and Illustration, while sculpture becomes its own department.
  • 1933 The Department of Painting and Illustration is renamed the Department of Painting and Design.
  • 1935 The Department of Music begins offering a master's degree in music education.
  • 1936 The world's first undergraduate degrees in industrial design are awarded to three women and two men.
  • 1944 The Department of Painting and Design is renamed the Department of Pictorial Design.
  • 1945 Drama and engineering students team up to create a student-run radio station, WCIT. Three years earlier, drama faculty began offering courses in radio acting and presentation.
  • 1947 The Department of Music begins to offer a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) in music composition.
  • 1949 The Interior Decoration Program is discontinued.
  • 1960 The Department of Graphic Arts is established with the College of Fine Arts, as the Printing Management Program is phased out.
  • 1961 The School of Architecture initiates a graduate program in Urban and Regional Design.
  • 1964 The College of Fine Arts embarks on Project Fine Arts, an initiative to improve arts education in Pittsburgh's public schools.
  • 1967 Programs in graphic arts and industrial design are organized into a unified Department of Design.
  • 1983 The School of Architecture organizes its first computer-aided design studio.
  • 1985 The Center for Art and Technology is founded.
  • 1989 The College of Fine Arts and Heinz College collaborate on establishing the Master of Arts Management Program.
  • 1989 The Center for Art and Technology is renamed the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry.
  • 1993 Undergraduate degree options are expanded to include the bachelor of humanities and the arts (BHA), the first of several intercollege degrees within what is now the BXA Intercollege Degree Programs.
  • 1994 The Department of Design introduces two new master's programs: Interaction Design and Communications Planning and Design. The latter is offered jointly with the Department of English.
  • 1995 The five departments within the College of Fine Arts are formally designated as "schools."
  • 1998 The School of Drama and School of Computer Science collaborate to create the Entertainment Technology Center.
  • 2000 The Purnell Center for the Arts opens. The facility includes the Philip Chosky Theater and the Regina Gouger Miller Art Gallery. The Center for the Arts in Society, a collaborative effort of scholars and artists affiliated with the College of Fine Arts and the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, is founded.
  • 2005 The College of Fine Arts and Heinz College collaborate on a second graduate degree: the Master of Entertainment Industry Management (MEIM).
  • 2012 In recognition of significant support from alumni Ed Frank and Sarah Ratchye, the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry is renamed the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry.
  • 2013 The College of Fine Arts is a core campus partner in establishing IDeATe, an opportunity for undergraduates to undertake significant integrative activities in the areas of digital media, media design, learning media and intelligent environments.