The Art Academy of Cincinnati’s roots are in the McMicken School of Drawing and Design, founded in 1869 for the “promotion of taste and design in the industrial arts.” The McMicken School became one of the first established departments of the University of Cincinnati. In 1884, Joseph Longworth, a Cincinnati philanthropist, was instrumental in the founding of the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Art Academy of Cincinnati. The McMicken School separated from the University of Cincinnati and became part of the Cincinnati Museum Association. The change of association culminated in an official name change to the Art Academy of Cincinnati and a move to a new facility built adjacent to the Cincinnati Art Museum in Eden Park in November of 1887.
Between 1884 and 1998, the Art Academy of Cincinnati operated as a museum school providing quality education to students. The Art Academy of Cincinnati became a charter member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) in 1948. In 1950, a four-year curriculum was introduced, and students earned Certificates. In 1979, the Art Academy of Cincinnati established a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program approved by the Ohio Board of Regents and NASAD. In 1998, the Art Academy of Cincinnati separated from the Cincinnati Museum Association and became a fully independent college of art and design.
In 2005 the Art Academy of Cincinnati moved from its Eden Park and Mount Adams locations to its current campus in historic Over-the-Rhine, a move that enabled the college to provide 24-hour access to over 100 student studio spaces, improved instructional studios, and other updated campus facilities. The Art Academy of Cincinnati was awarded numerous awards for the development, design and construction of the new facility and achieved LEED Certification by the US Green Building Council in 2008.