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MCAD Milestones

MCAD has been educating creative leaders, artists, designers, thinkers, and entrepreneurs for more than a century. Still today the college is a renowned, dynamic institution for a diverse community of creative students from the Twin Cities to Shanghai.


The Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts is formed to raise interest in the fine arts through teaching and exhibitions.


The Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts establishes the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts in a rented apartment in the downtown area. Douglas Volk, an accomplished portrait painter who studied with Jean-Léon Gérôme in Paris, becomes the school’s first Director (and, initially, its sole instructor).

Portrait of Douglas Volk
Minneapolis Public Library circa 1889


The school finds a more permanent home on the top floor of the new Minneapolis Public Library at Tenth Street and Hennepin.


Noted painter Robert Koehler moves from New York to Minnesota to become Director of the school. Over the next ten years, he develops much of the curriculum that is known today as the art education field.


Mary Moulton Cheney, an advocate and practitioner of the Arts and Crafts movement, is hired to develop a program in Design, which will eventually include courses in jewelry, weaving, book and graphic design.


The name of the school is changed to the Minneapolis School of Art.

Portrait of Mary Moulton Cheney
Morrison Building circa 1916


The Society of Fine Arts raises funds to build the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Mia), which opens its doors in 1915. The School is temporarily housed in the museum until Ethel Morrison Van Derlip and her brother Dr. Angus Washburn Morrison pledged $50,000 to construct the school’s first permanent facility—the Julia Morrison Memorial Building—designed by prominent Minneapolis architect Edwin Hawley Hewitt.


Mary Moulton Cheney becomes the school’s first female president. President Cheney is deeply involved in the Handicraft Guild, a part of the arts-and-crafts movement.

Artist Wanda Hazel Gág '17 attends the Minneapolis School of Art. Her children’s book Millions of Cats is the oldest American picture book still in print today.

Portrait of Wanda Gag
Portrait of George Morrison


Painter Edmund Kopietz is appointed Director, a position he will hold until 1950.  He guides the School successfully through the Stock Market Crash, the Great Depression, and World War II.


Acclaimed Ojibwe artist George Morrison '43 graduates from the Minneapolis School of Art and later moves to New York, where he joins a circle of abstract expressionists that includes Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning. Morrison later returns to Minnesota to work and teach.


Noted German Expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka teaches as the School's artist-in-residence.


To accommodate a growing student body, a new building is constructed for the Design Division. It now houses the College Library.


Rob Roy Kelly '52, a printmaking and graphic design faculty member, designs the flying G logo for the newly opened Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

60-70s classroom at MCAD
Portrait of President Arnold Herstand


Under the leadership of President Arnold Herstand, the Minneapolis School of Art becomes the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), reflecting its highly regarded bachelor of fine arts degree. Often in collaboration with the Walker Art Center, President Herstand launches an extensive visiting-artists program and one of the country’s first courses in intermedia—a new field exploring the simultaneous use of sound, light, color, and movement.


President Arnold Herstand oversees the construction of a new building, conceived alongside the Children’s Theatre Company and new wings of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Mia)—these modernist buildings represent some of the only projects in the United States designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Kenzo Tange.


MCAD partners with the Jerome Foundation to launch the Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Early Career Artists. 

Newly constructed Main Building
MCAD Art Sale circa 1990


After more than one hundred years of shared history, the MCAD and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts become autonomous organizations. President G. Richard Slade oversees the establishment of a separate administration and board of trustees.


After launching a master of fine arts degree program and expanding studio facilities, President John S. Slorp creates a new Minnesota tradition with the annual MCAD Art Sale

The college’s computer labs are significantly expanded and digital work becomes a larger part of the academic curriculum.


The college expands its enrollment, increases its housing capacity, and under the direction of President Michael O’Keefe, launches a new four-year curriculum and a laptop initiative that are now viewed as national models.

I.D. magazine names the college one of the nation’s Top Ten Design Schools.


Jay Coogan is named president of the college.

Portrait of Jay Coogan
Sculpture Garden circa 2015


MCAD launches the fully online Master of Arts in Sustainable Design.


MCAD celebrates its 125th anniversary with a series of events including a lecture by  MCAD alum James Rosenquist.

As part of its commitment to public art, MCAD establishes the Sculpture Garden which is filled with both permanent and rotating works created by MCAD students, alumni, faculty members, and invited artists. 


MCAD adds a new Product Design major and fully online Master of Arts in Graphic and Web Design.


Sanjit Sethi is named nineteenth president of the college.

Portrait of Sanjit Sethi in front of the MCAD mural
Aerial view of MCAD's campus with Mia and the minneapolis skyline in the background


The college is home to nearly eight hundred students from forty states and thirteen countries. The college offers undergraduate and graduate degreescontinuing education programscertificate programsonline learning programsyouth programs; and free exhibitions and lectures.