College of Visual Arts

College of Visual Arts
Established 1948
Type Private
President Ann Ledy
Academic staff 50
Students 200
Location Saint Paul, Minnesota
Campus urban
Nickname CVA

The College of Visual Arts (CVA) in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is a private, accredited, four-year college of art and design offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in fine arts, graphic design, illustration, interdisciplinary design studies, and photography. The fine arts degree offers concentrations in drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture. The interdisciplinary design studies degree offers a concentration in fashion.

CVA began as one of the first learning environments in the Twin Cities specifically designed to ignite the creativity of artists and designers. CVA is one of a handful of art and design colleges in the U.S. that provides an arts education steeped in the liberal arts. With an enrollment of approximately 200 students and a faculty of 50, CVA offers a low student-teacher ratio. The College is one of only two private art and design colleges in Minnesota.



In 1948, Lowell Bobleter acquired Mills College of Art and Advertising and transformed it into what would become the College of Visual Arts. Bobleter, a prominent Saint Paul artist and educator then serving as chairman of the fine arts department at Hamline University, based the new curriculum on the Bauhaus model: an integrated program including both fine and applied arts, and general courses in the humanities, natural sciences, and aesthetics. As president, Bobleter renamed the institution the “School of Associated Arts” (SAA). In 1969, the school assumed non-profit status, which it maintains today. During the 1970s, the school achieved national accreditation with the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools (NATTS) and began to participate in federal financial aid programs. In 1989, the college changed its name to the "College of Associated Arts." and began the process of seeking accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC). To clarify that the college was a four-year institution, the administration adopted the name "College of Visual Arts" (CVA) in 1995. CVA was granted candidacy status by HLC in August 1994, and was granted initial accreditation for five years in 1998. HLC renewed CVA's accreditation for a seven-year term in 2003.


The campus is located in Saint Paul’s historic Ramsey Hill and Summit Avenue neighborhoods and comprises five buildings: a 1915 mansion on Summit Avenue, which houses administrative offices, classrooms, computer labs, and printmaking and sculpture studios; a gallery open to the public at Selby and Western avenues; and three buildings near the gallery that house the library, additional classrooms and studios, and a photography lab.


The College of Visual Arts provides a collaborative environment that focuses on individual student development by fully integrating the study of the liberal arts and the visual arts. We cultivate a worldview that recognizes the value of art and design in promoting pride in place and responsible citizenship.

Academic Program

All first year students participate in a clearly sequenced yearlong foundation program consisting of a strong standardized curriculum in studio arts, liberal arts, and an orientation to art and design. It provides a required introduction to the essential visual vocabulary, concepts, and technical skills necessary for success in all the upper level programs. This program provides all first year students with the information necessary to make an informed choice of major at its conclusion.

What students learn in the first year, and expand upon in courses in their major, culminates in the Senior Thesis Program. Thesis work includes the development of a mature body of studio work for exhibition and a written analysis of the student’s collection, a professional portfolio, website, and opportunities to develop presentations for public address. This program also equips students with career-focused skills and experience—from interviewing for art and design positions, teaching, and applying for public commissions to writing grant proposals, launching and promoting a freelance business, and applying for graduate school.

Integration of liberal arts coursework in all of the art and design majors is a distinguishing feature of the College of Visual Arts; CVA offers a robust selection of liberal arts courses to enhance the student’s learning experience. Extensive study in art history helps the students understand their own work in the context of the larger world of art and design. Active learning through the arts is employed in many areas such as math and science courses. Oral presentation and critical reading, thinking, and writing are important skills across the curriculum.

External links

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