20 Top HBCU Art Programs


It should come as no surprise the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which have produced succsessful individuals in so many fields, have also produced successful visual artists. The work of HBCU alumni has appeared in art galleries and museums across the country.  It is collected by Stan Lathan, Jay Z and Beyonce. The work of HBCU artists  is also mainstream and has been seen on television shows for decades.  Fans of 'The Cosby Show' will remember the episode where Claire won a family heirloom at an art auction.  That painting, 'The Funeral Procession', was painted by Kentucky State alumnus, Ellis Wilson. It has been seen on tv shows like Empire and Good Times and graced the cover of TV Guide.  It is even believed to have inspired the image of Roosevelt on the dime. James A. Porter, considered to have established the field of African-American art history, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden all studied at HBCUs.


The Hundred-Seven is highlighting twenty top HBCU art programs.  These are programs that offer students training in a variety of areas and have produced some successful artists.  Programs highlighted with an * are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.  (Colleges listed in reverse alphabetical order.  Many have social media accounts to help you learn more about the program.)  


To learn about HBCU alumni who have found success as artists, click HERE



Published: September 2020


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Xavier University
(New Orleans, LA)

Xavier is known as one of the top producers of Black doctors.  But while President Emeritus Norman Francis was building a top-notch STEM program, he was also building an amazing art center.  XULA art village houses spaces for ceramics and sculpture; drawing, painting, photography and printmaking.  The campus features an art collection and sculpture garden.  Students are able to participate in an annual showcase sponsored by the Links and held at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
Notable alumni include: David Anthony Geary, Frank Hayden and Ashley Lorraine.  

Winston-Salem State University
(Winston-Salem, NC)

Winston-Salem's campus is home to a sculpture garden and a world-class collection of public art by artists such as John Biggers, Mel Edwards, Beverly Buchanan and Tyrone Mitchell.  Its Diggs Gallery is home to one of the South's largest showcases dedicated to African and African-American art. Students are taught by award-winning professors like Scott J. Betz, winner of the 2020 Board of Governors Teaching Award as well as instructors who continue to create and exhibit their work in galleries across the country.
Notable alumni include:  Selma Burke.

Virginia State University*
(Ettrick, VA)

Recent accollades for the college's art program include being recognized by Animation Career Review as one of the top programs in the nation for Graphic Design and HBCU Digest as the Best HBCU Fine Arts Program. With a location close to Richmond, VA and Washington, DC students are able to take filed trips to places like the National Gallery of Art and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and are able to work as interns at museums and businesses in major markets such as D.C. and New York City.  
Notable alumni include: Alexis Joyner, Thomas Miller and Malcolm Brown.

University of Maryland Eastern Shore
(Princess Anne, MD)

The art program at UMES includes visiting professional artists, trips to art museums along the East Coast from Baltimore to New York and an annual international trip. Students enrolled in the graphic illustration and sequential arts programs also participate in comic cons.  Students have work published with independent comic books studios, in the student art magazine, The Talon and have installed murals locally.  
Notable alumni include Jamaal Peterman and Kristie Boyd. 

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff *
(Pine Bluff, AR)

UAPB has a decades-old collaboration with Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, an art gallery (Leedell Moorhead-Graham Art Gallery) and faculty and alumni who have received national acclaim for their work.  The department sponsors art competitions and exhibits for students.  All graduates must complete a one-person show.  Even though the college is located in Arkansas, students have the opportunity to intern at the Smithsonian.  
Notable alumni include: Kevin Cole, Markeith Woods and Scinthya Edwards.

Texas Southern University
(Houston, TX)

How could a program that was founded and led by the renowned John Biggers not be amazing? For decades its mural project has allowed art students to leave their mark on the campus.  Punctuated by a highly regarded art museum (that includes works by students who have graduated from the program) the art program at TSU provides training in Ceramics, Design, Drawing, Painting, Printmaking and Sculpture.   It is considered "a historic anchor for art students and all Black artists working in Houston."
Notable alumni: Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Robert Pruitt, Nathaniel Donnett and Earlie Hudnall,  Jr.

Tennessee State University*
(Nashville, TN)

The Space for New Media at TSU gives students and artists a place to produce and display digital, experimental and performance-based art.  The art gallery hosts 6 annual exhibits and gives students and faculty an opportunity to showcase their work.  Students also exhibit locally in Nashville.  Tennessee State owns an extensive art collection, hosts artist talks and lectures and sponsors a chapter of Kappa Pi International Art Honor Society.  
Notable alumni include: Michael J. McBride and Samuel Dunson.

South Carolina State University*
(Orangeburg, SC)

The art department at South Carolina State was developed by Leo Twiggs, the first African-American to earn a Doctorate of Arts from the University of Georgia.
The college offers art students cross-disciplinary activities through collaborations with the Music, Drama and other university programs.  Students can choose to focus on Studio Art, Photography/ Printmaking, Ceramics/Sculpture, Digital Media or Painting/Drawing. There is a lab or studio for every concentration offered and students can display their work in the FAB Gallery on campus. Students can also participate in visiting artist series and open studio sessions.  
Notable alumni include: Zaire McPhearson

Norfolk State University
(Norfolk, VA)

Norfolk State University offers students state of the art labs, studios and equipment for design, photography, fashion, sculpting and printmaking.   It also offers a Master's degree in art.  Students can participate in bi-weekly seminars and workshops as well as university sponsored conferences and artist talks.  The college has established professional partnerships with The Hermitage, Chrysler Museum of Art, Virginia Fashion Week and The Neon District in Norfolk.
Notable alumni include: Stephanie Kiah and Solomon Isekeije.

Morgan State University
(Baltimore, MD)

Morgan State is the first HBCU to offer a student group of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, allowing students to engage with the local design community. The art department and the college's art gallery were developed by sculptor James E. Lewis and offers students programs in Art History, Graphic Design, Illustration or Multi-Media Studio.   
Notable alumni include: Marie Johnson Calloway, George Nock and Vinnie Bagwell.  


Johnson C. Smith University
(Charlotte, NC)

Johnson C. Smith's committment to the Arts is visible in the establishment of its arts factory building which opened a decade ago.  It houses classrooms for art and graphic design students and laboratories for communication arts students.  Graphic arts students can study design, photography and animation. Smith's Arts Advisory Board provides access to the arts and inside information about volunteer, internships and job opportunities at places like The Mint Museum of Art and
The Light Factory.
Notable alumni include: Jefferson Eugene Grigsby and T.J. Reddy.  

Jackson State University* 
(Jackson, MS)

The Art Program at Jackson State was the first in the state to become accredited.  There are three art galleries and computer labs with complete image generation, typography, and multimedia capabilities. Seniors in the graphic arts and studio arts program participate in a semester-long internship. Offering painting, ceramics, printmaking, and sculpture, JSU partners with numerous galleries, The Mississippi Museum of Art and the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center. Animation Career Review ranked it one of the top colleges in the state for Graphic Design.  
Notable alumni include: Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Reshonda Perryman, John Jennings and Marcus E. Bishop.

Howard University*
(Washington, DC)

Established nearly a century ago, Howard University has produced many notables in the art world.  Long led by James A. Porter, considered the founder of the field of African-American art history, Howard offers ceramics, design, electronic studio, painting, photography, and sculpture and was ranked the top program for animation in DC. Students can pursue a Bachelor's or Master's degree in Fine Art. The university art gallery hosts an annual student exhibition and an annual faculty exhibition.   
Notable alumni include: Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, David Driskell and Sylvia Snowden. 

Hampton University
(Hampton, VA)

Long a fixture in the African-American art world, Hampton University is home to the oldest African-American museum in the country.  It also publishes The International Review of African American Art,  Two of its alumni established the art departments at Texas Southern University.   Students can select to study drawing, painting, sculpting, ceramics, photography or digital animation.  Student artwork has been featured in competitions and exhibits across the region.  
Notable alumni include: John Biggers, Alfred Conteh, Carroll Harris Simms and Samella Lewis. 

Florida A&M University
(Tallahassee, FL)

The list of FAMU's art alumni is a Who's Who list of the African-American art world.  Offering courses in textile design, Serigraphy, mural painting and Introduction to Nonprofit Art Organizations, students who graduate from the program are well-rounded artists regardless of the area of art they choose to master.  Students can participate in the Fine Arts Society, attend the ARTalks series and intern at local galleries and museums.  The colleges offers workspaces for painting, digital design, sculpture/ ceramics.  
Notable alumni include: James Denmark, James Tanner, Chire Regans and Lev Mills.

Coahoma Community College
(Clarksdale, MS)

The art program at Coahoma Community College provides students with the opportunity to showcase their artwork on campus and in the local community.  CCC hosted the first Mississippi College Art Program Portfolio Day which provided students with the opportunity to display their artwork and receive feedback from the area's top art critics.  Students can study 3D design, ceramics, drawing, painting, illustration, character design and computer art.  

Clark Atlanta University
(Atlanta, GA)

Clark Atlanta University has established a solid art program anchored by an art museum that has become a national forum for artists of African descent. The museum began as the annual Exhibition of Paintings, Prints and Sculpture by Negro Artists of America inaugurated by artist Hale Woodruff who led the art department.    The department sponsors visiting artists, designers, and industry professionals to meet with students and provide advice for their careers and has an emphasis on awareness of African-American artistic developments. Concentrations include studio art, advertising design and fashion.
Notable alumni include: Amy Sherald, Hebru Brantley and Edwin Harleston 

Bowie State University
(Bowie, MD)

Bowie State's visual communication and digital media arts (VCDMA) program offers five concentrations in Advertising Design, Animation & Motion Graphics, Digital Cinema & Time-Based Media, Digital Media Arts and Fashion Design and Maryland’s first program in hip-hop studies and visual culture.  Campus organizations and opportunities include Artist Guild Student Group, a student group of AIGA DC and courses in ceramics printmaking, photography, installation and public art.  
Notable alumni include: Pinkie Strother. Eunique Jones Gibson and Kristin Sue Kim.

Alabama State University* (Montgomery, Alabama)

Alabama State offers art programs in Fine Arts and Graphic Design with concentrations in ceramics, photography and publication design.  Tullibody Fine Arts Center has painting, drawing and sculpture studios for student use and the Warren-Britt Gallery hosts exhibits of both student work and professional artists.  
Notable alumni include: John Feagin, Bill R. Ford and Floyd W. Coleman.   

Special Mention:   For nearly 25 years each summer TOUGALOO COLLEGE has offered a week-long Artist Colony for artists, art educators, art students, hobbyists, art enthusiasts.  World-renowned artists come and teach classes in a wide range of areas including pastel painting, jewelry making, and sculpting.   

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