Fine Arts (BA | BFA)

Explore a range of materials, methods, and theories in the Fine Arts programs at Columbia College Chicago, where we view the art world as interdisciplinary and flexible. You’ll find a place for your unique, creative vision with the support of instructors who are also professional artists. As a Fine Arts major, you’ll learn about the social function of art and begin to sharpen your voice as you study art history and theory. 

In our supportive critique environment, you’ll get regular feedback on your work from professional artists and fellow students. As an art major, you’ll have opportunities to exhibit in campus spaces and venues throughout the city.  

Columbia College Chicago Fine Arts student work by Diane Zabielaite

Diane Zabielaite ’14

Degrees Available

Columbia offers two degrees in fine arts: the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). The BFA focuses on studio practice, whereas the BA provides flexibility and time to explore your other passions through a minor or a second major. The BFA program is small and selective. It requires more time in the studio and advanced courses in art history and theory. The BA is a good fit for you if you’re interested in creating and studying fine art as a primary focus, but also want to explore other topics like arts management, photography, theatre, or fashion.

If you plan to apply directly to the BFA program, you’ll need to include some additional materials.

View course requirements:

In the Classroom

Fine Art major classroom for screenprinting

  • Foundational courses will introduce you to the creative community at Columbia. You’ll take courses like Introduction to Visual Culture that will encourage you to think critically about how we create, critique, and consume images.  
  • You’ll start making and experimenting from day one. A series of five-week skills courses will encourage you to experiment with techniques like silk screening, papermaking, laser cutting, and digital video. 
  • The curriculum is built around critique classes, so you’ll get diverse perspectives on your work from faculty and your peers.  
  • You’ll have many opportunities to launch student-run projects, events, and galleries and to collaborate with students in other arts and media fields like photography, design, and fashion. 
  • In your last year, you’ll have the opportunity to exhibit your work at Manifest, Columbia’s annual urban arts festival, in a professional gallery space in the heart of Chicago.  
  • You’ll take a professional practice course to learn how to create proposals, prepare budgets, and write grants. And you’ll have the option to take several business courses on topics like marketing for the arts and the business of freelance. 

Creative Spaces

AD Shop facilities

You’ll spend most of your studio time experimenting and bringing your vision to reality in creative spaces, like our 15,000-square-foot Fabrication Facility and dedicated letterpress and printmaking studios. 

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A&D Gallery
Galleries and Museums
Columbia has four professional gallery spaces where students curate original exhibitions and display their work. The galleries also bring artists from around the world. Columbia’s student-run store, Shop Columbia, sells student, faculty, and alumni work.

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Chicago: A Cultural Hub


When you’re not in the studio, you’ll get involved in Chicago’s local art scene. Columbia College Chicago’s campus is home to the Wabash Arts Corridor, which draws innovative muralists to the city every year. Chicago has countless museums and galleries as well as co-op spaces and pop-up exhibits around the city. Your faculty mentors will help you make connections and explore all the Chicago art scene offers.  

As a Columbia student, you’ll have free access to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.  


Internships are a great way to build a professional network and learn how to make a career in the arts. You’ll work with faculty mentors to identify an appropriate path, and our Career Center will help you find opportunities. Columbia students have interned at places like Chicago Artists Coalition, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and galleries of all sizes. Learn more about the Career Center.


Our faculty members are well-known artists and scholars committed to teaching, researching, and mentoring. In addition to working with Columbia students, they exhibit their work nationally and internationally and have deep connections in the art field.

Columbia faculty member Joan Giroux

“I like the eccentricity of our students. It makes me feel like people can be tolerant of and celebrate difference as opposed to sameness”

-Professor Joan Giroux

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Grants and Awards

Fine Arts students can apply for grants and awards to support their creative work.

  • The Pougialis Fine Art Award offers Fine Arts students an opportunity to study as an apprentice to a senior artist of national or international standing for one semester and have an exhibition in the Arcade Gallery.
  • The Albert P. Weisman Award provides funds to help students complete arts and communications projects.

Alumni Success


At just 33 years old, EJ Hill ’11 has had his installation and performance art featured in museums all over the world.

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Our alumni are groundbreaking artists, gallerists, curators, and researchers. Their work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Many have received awards, fellowships, and residencies, reflecting the powerful contributions they make to the field.

  • Irena Haiduk ’04 is a performance and installation artist. She exhibited in the 2017 Whitney Biennial and documenta, two of the most prestigious exhibitions in the art world.
  • Jeremiah Barber ’06 is a performance artist. He graduated with his MFA from Stanford University in 2010 and was awarded an Alternative Exposure grant in 2018 to produce new work.
  • Jessica Egan ’12 is a ceramics artist who creates tableware for some of Chicago’s hottest restaurants.
  • Andi Crist ’11 launched Autotelic NFP, an organization that creates affordable studios in alternative spaces in Chicago. She is chief preparator at Hyde Park Art Center.
  • Emanuel Aguilar ’09 founded Jettison Quarterly, a publication devoted to art, music, and culture. He was director of the Kavi Gupta Gallery until 2014 and then founded PATRON, a gallery in Chicago that specializes in contemporary art and upcoming artists.
  • Taylor Edin ’15 went to graduate school at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway, one of the most prestigious and rigorous Master of Fine Arts programs in Europe.
  • Jackie Capozzoli ’10 owns and directs a successful craft leather goods company, JAKIMAC, in Los Angeles. JAKIMAC has been featured in publications like Vogue, S Magazine, ATLAS, and NYLON.

If you're interested in a program focused on research, theory, and writing, check out our Art History program.

Many BA students also pursue a minor. Some popular minors include: