The Academy of Art University in San Francisco is the largest privately owned art and design school in the United States. The Academy was founded in 1929 by Richard S. Stephens, an artist and creative director for Sunset magazine. The mission of the school was clear, hire established professionals to teach future professionals.
When Stephen’s opened the school in 1929, the focus was on teaching advertising art. In 1933 the school added a fashion illustration program, and in 1933 an fine arts department was added. In 1966 the school was incorporated and permitted to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts. Today, students can earn a multitude of degrees in over 30 different areas of study.
The school currently employs 283 full time teachers, 1152 part-time staff and has an enrollment of over 12,000 students. Stephens son, Richard A. Stephens took over leadership of the school in 1951. His daughter, Elisa Stephens is the current president. Under her guidance the school’s student population has blossomed and she is committed to keeping up with today’s technological and industrial trends.
The Academy of Art has been a part of Fashion Week in New York City bi-annually since 2006. On September 9, 2017 the school held its 21st Runway showcase at Skylight Clarkson Square. This year, ten recent graduations represented The Academy of Art and presented five womenswear collections, two menswear collections and two collaborations. The collections that were showcased reflected the diverse backgrounds of the designers. Saya Shen of Beijing, China worked with Kornit Digital to transfer her own landscape photographs to her fabrics. Dina Marie Lam of Los Angeles, California was moved to capture the emotions she felt after the passing of her aunt, and Cana Klebenoff of New Jersey took inspiration from the armor of the Japanese Samurai to create his line of wearable comfort. The range of ideas and craftsmanship was well received by the audience whose notable attendees included Ms. J Alexander from America’s Next Top Model and Sara Kozlowski, Director of Education and Professional Development at CFDA.