History of CCAD

CCAD is one of America’s oldest and most prestigious art and design schools. We got our start in 1879 — and people have been raving about us ever since. Even Oscar Wilde, when he stopped in Columbus in 1882, said he was impressed that “the capital city (has) a leading art school.”

Here’s a look at some memorable moments and milestones in CCAD’s history.

1879
Columbus College of Art & Design was founded. (Back then CCAD wasn’t called CCAD, though. We were known as the Columbus Art School.)

Classes were so popular our first year that First Lady Lucy Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, came to the school in our second year.

1882
Writer Oscar Wilde came to Columbus and in a public lecture talked about how impressed he was that “the capital city (has) a leading art school.”

1885
The first class of students graduated from CCAD.

1930
We built Beaton Hall, the first facility constructed just for the school. It had no windows on the south side because, according to CCAD alum Bill Arter, “artists prefer to face north.”

1936
Georgia O’Keeffe visited the school.

1950s
We added a number of programs including advertising, industrial design and illustration.

1952
Joseph Canzani became the school’s leader. He oversaw rapid growth and change, beginning with the addition of a diploma program requiring 120 semester credit hours of work and a mandatory GPA of 2.0.

1959
We officially changed our name to Columbus College of Art and Design.

1970
The first class of CCAD students with Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees graduated.

1979
Joseph Canzani became the college’s first President.

1985
We opened our first residence hall.

1987
We added animation and video programs, building our reputation as a hub for designers.

1993
The Joseph V. Canzani Center was built, giving CCAD our first dedicated gallery and auditorium.

1996

The idea for our iconic ART sign is born. Ric Petry (who would later become our first Director of Graduate Studies) got the idea for a large, neon red, block-letter ART sign while serving as a visiting artist in Taiwan. He kept noticing a sign at a college on top of a hill in Taipei and envisioned an equally striking, placemaking landmark for CCAD. A few years later, he’d propose the idea to a new president, Denny Griffith. 

1998
Artist and leader Denny Griffith was named President of CCAD. Over the next 16 years, until his retirement in 2014, he led the college through transformational change.

He expanded our campus, oversaw the installation of our 10-story ART sign and helped develop our first graduate degree.

2000s
Student services and organizations expanded across campus.

2001
CCAD made a mark on the city skyline with our giant ART sculpture. The piece is 100 feet tall, 101 feet wide and weighs 24,000 pounds. (It also has zero bad angles when it comes to taking selfies.) The sculpture came to be after Ric Petry, now Director of Graduate Studies, joked that CCAD should build a giant ART sign inspired by 1950s diners. Then President Denny Griffith liked the idea. So we got a giant ART sign that serves, as Denny said, “as a beacon for the arts in Columbus and beyond.”

2010
CCAD launched its first graduate program, the Master of Fine Arts degree.

2012
The first MFA class graduated.

2013
State-of-the-art fabrication space, called the Tad Jeffrey FabLab, was built, housing 3D printers, laser cutters and machining equipment.

2016
Dr. Melanie Corn was named first female President of CCAD.

We introduced two new undergraduate programs — Comics & Narrative Practice and Contemporary Crafts — and a new graduate degree, the Master of Design in Integrated Design.

2018
It’s your turn to make history.