According to a 2003 survey "of deans and department chairs, one per school, at 213 master of fine arts programs" conducted by U.S. News & World Report, the School shares a number one ranking with the Rhode Island School of Design and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for Masters of Fine Arts programs. Any student applying to the school must have an exceptional undergradute record as well as a complete body of work for presentation. This is further followed by an essay and recommendations from established members of the art world. The complete process for an applicant requires great preparation and the process must be completed in accordance with strict guidelines established by the school The Yale Daily News reported on Thursday, February 1, 2007 that 1215 applicants for its class of 2009 sought admission to fifty-five places.
Augustus Russell Street donated funds for the establishment of an art school in 1864. The program was placed under an art council, one of whose members was the painter-inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, a graduate of Yale College. When the School opened in 1869, it was the first of its kind affiliated with a tertiary institution in America. Classes in drawing, painting, sculpture, and art history were inaugurated.
Architectural instruction was begun in 1908 and was established as a department in 1916 with Everett Victor Meeks at its head. Drama, under the direction of George Pierce Baker and with its own separate building, was added in 1925 and continued to function as a department of the School until it became an independent school in 1955.
In 1959 the School of Art and Architecture was made a fully graduate professional school. Four years later the Art and Architecture Building was opened to much controversy. Designed by Paul Rudolph, it falls under the category of brutalism in modernist architecture.
In 1972 two separate schools, the School of Art and the School of Architecture, were established. They continued to share the Art and Architecture building until 2000. In 2000 a new building opened up for the art school at 1156 Chapel Street near the Rudolph building. It is called Green Hall and houses BFA students and MFA students in photo and graphic design. The painting MFAs have their own building behind Green Hall, and the sculpture MFAs remain in Hammond Hall across campus. However, a giant new sculpture building is currently being built on Howe Street.
The School of Art offers professional instruction in four interrelated areas of study: graphic design, painting/printmaking, photography, and sculpture.
The graduate student’s primary educational experience is centered on studio activity. Supporting this are structured courses such as drawing, filmmaking, and the relativity of color.