The 50 Best College Art Museums

When you consider visiting an art museum, you probably picture institutions like the Met in New York or the Art Institute in Chicago, right? Did you ever think about going to the college nearest you? Chances are, your local college possesses an art museum or gallery to entertain and engage even the savviest of art connoisseurs. Whether their mission is to collect premier European paintings, preserve the art of native cultures, or to exhibit faculty and student work, college and university art museums are some of the best institutions in the country.

After ranking museums from around the country, evaluating their programming, existing collections and community impact, we've ranked our Top 50 College Art Museums. 

50. Nasher Museum of Art 

The 65,000 square-foot Nasher Museum of Art opened in 2005. Formerly the Duke University Museum of Art, the collection was established in 1969 with 200 works of medieval art. Today, the museum’s growing collection includes contemporary art with a focus on work by artists of African descent. Through its collection, the Nasher Museum encourages engagement with the arts among its university community and the community of Durham.

  • You can learn more about the Nasher Museum of Art here

49. Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

As the only AAM accredited museum in Oregon, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art collects and exhibits historic and contemporary art and produces educational programming consistent with the mission of the University of Oregon. The collection includes works of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South and South East Asian, Islamic, European and American art.

  • You can learn more about the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art here

48. Krannert Art Museum

Established in 1961, the Krannert Art Museum is the second largest general fine arts museum in Illinois. The 10,000 piece collection and ten galleries play host to over 132,000 visitors annually. The collection contains works of art that range from ancient Egyptian and pre-Columbian objects to contemporary art.

  • You can learn more about the Krannert Art Museum here

47. The Wolfsonian

The Wolfsonian at Florida International University contains an 180,000 piece multi-media collection dating from the 1850s to the 1950s. The collection is utilized to illustrate the persuasiveness of art and design while telling the story of social, political and technological changes that shaped the world. Highlights of the collection include furniture, glass, ceramics, rare books, works on paper, paintings, textiles and works of metal.

  • You can learn more about The Wolfsonian here

46. Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts

The Cantor Arts Center is unique among university art museums in that it was conceived in tandem with the establishment of Stanford University. Members of the Stanford family traveled the world collecting works of art and visual culture to be displayed and utilized by the students of the university. Spanning centuries and continents, the collection includes works of European and American art, modern and contemporary art, art of Asia, Africa, Oceania, the ancient Americas, as well as drawings, prints and photographs.

  • You can learn more about the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts here

45. Hammer Museum

The Hammer Museum at UCLA supports art and artists that challenge our perspective, ignite our imaginations and inspire change. The Hammer’s impressive collection includes international contemporary art dating from 1960, a 45,000 piece collection of works on paper, European and American paintings and drawings, and a sculptural garden.

  • You can learn more about the Hammer Museum here.

44. Fine Arts Gallery

The San Francisco State University Fine Arts Gallery presents student and professional-orientated exhibitions yearly. The Gallery features four exhibitions each year, two of which are student exhibitions. The other two explore international contemporary art and the diversity of art in California and the Western United States.

  • You can learn more about the Fine Arts Gallery here

43. Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Founded in 1864 and originally named the Vassar College Art Gallery, the 36,000 square-foot Frances Lehman Loeb Art Museum comprises an art collection that traces the history of art from ancient times to the present. The 19,000 piece collection contains paintings, sculptures, works on paper, textiles, glass and ceramics. Highlights of the collection include a Old Master prints and works by major European and American 20th-century painters.

  • You can learn more about the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center here

42. Grand Central Art Center

Dedicated to the local, regional, national, and international exploration of contemporary art and visual culture, the Grand Central Art Center facilitates collaborations among artists, students and the local community. Located 10 miles south of the CSU Fullerton campus in the nearby city of Santa Ana, the 45,000 square-foot, three-level building contains live/studio spaces for graduate students, the Grand Central Main Gallery, Project Room, Education/Teaching Gallery, Grand Central Theatre, Gypsy Den Café, and living spaces for the center’s international artist-in-residence program.

  • You can learn more about the Grand Central Art Center here

41. Michael C. Carlos Museum

Since its founding in 1919, the Michael C. Carlos Museum has grown to be one of the most respected art institutions in Georgia. Through the collection, preservation, exhibition, and interpretation of art in its collections, the Carlos offers unique educational opportunities for the university and local community. The 17,000 piece collection includes objects from ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Rome, the Americas, Asia, and Africa, as well as works on paper from the Renaissance to today.

  • You can learn more about Michael C. Carlos Museum here

40. Harry Ransom Center

Holding a collection of more than 65,000 works of American, European, and Asian drawings, paintings and sculptures, the Harry Ransom Center encourages discovery and understanding of the humanities for its diverse audience. Among the collection highlights include literary portraiture, art created by writers and poets, caricatures, cartoons, and book illustrations.

  • You can learn more about the Harry Ransom Center here

39. The University of Arizona Museum of Art

To achieve its mission of engaging diverse audiences, inspiring critical dialogue, and championing art as essential to life, the U of A Museum of Art produces exciting and thought provoking exhibitions and programming. Its vast collection includes European paintings of the 14th to 19th century, Modern American and European paintings, sculpture, works on paper, plaster and clay models, and Great Depression era paintings, prints and sculpture.

  • You can learn more about The University of Arizona Museum of Art here

38. Jundt Art Museum

The Jundt Art Museum, composed of the Jundt Galleries, Arcade Gallery and Chancellor’s Room, provides over 5,500 square feet of exhibition space for its collection. Its collection includes glass art, bronze sculpture, works on paper, paintings, ceramics, photographs and tapestries.

  • You can learn more about the Jundt Art Museum here

37. Mead Art Museum

With a celebrated collection of American and European paintings, Mexican ceramics, Tibetan scroll paintings, ancient Assyrian carvings, Russian avant-garde art, West African sculpture and Japanese prints, the Mead Art Museum of Amherst College strives to inspire creativity and provide insight through thoughtful interaction with original works of art.

  • You can learn more about the Mead Art Museum here

36. University of Michigan Museum of Art

Over 150 years of collecting at the University of Michigan is represented in its 18,000 piece collection of art. As one of the oldest university art collections in the county, it includes works of African, American, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, modern, and contemporary art, as well as print, drawing and photographic collections.

  • You can learn more about the University of Michigan Museum of Art here

35. Mills College Art Museum

After only 30 years of its opening in 1852, the collection of Mills College had grown to over 1,000 pieces of art and reproductions. Following a bequest in 1925, the current museum building was constructed to house the collection. Today, the collection has expanded to include works of ceramics, Native American basketry, paintings, photographs, works on paper, sculpture, decorative arts, and textiles.

  • You can learn more about the Mills College Art Museum here

34. NIU Art Museum

With a collection of over 1,000 objects of 20th-century works on paper and contemporary paintings and sculpture, the NIU Art Museum contributes to the wider university’s educational goals and provides opportunities of art education. The museum strives to preserve and exhibit contemporary art for a broad examination of visual culture.

  • You can learn more about the NIU Art Museum here

33. Saint Louis University Museum of Art

The Saint Louis University Museum of Art strives to enhance the SLU students’ education through the exhibition of culturally diverse works of art and sponsoring engaging art programs. The Museum not only displays works of historical significance, but is also a venue for work by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the University. The collection includes modern and contemporary art, religious art and artifacts dating from the 13th to 20th centuries, and Asian decorative arts.

  • You can learn more about the Saint Louis University Museum of Art here

32. Bellarmine Museum of Art

Founded in 2010, the Bellarmine Museum of Art (BAM) contains a collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts. The collection features works by masters of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods, casts of ancient Greek and Roman works, pre-Columbian ceramics, 19th century South East Asian sculptures, and African masks.

  • You can learn more about the Bellarmine Museum of Art here

31. John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

As one of the five brothers who founded the famous Ringling Brothers Circus, John Ringling was an avid art collector and connoisseur. Shortly after their marriage, John and Mable Ringling began to feverishly collect works of art that became the foundation for the Ringling Museum of Art. The pair gradually collected substantial amounts of Asian art, decorative arts, European and American art, and modern and contemporary art.

  • You can learn more about the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art here

30. Williams College Museum of Art

With a 14,000 piece collection ranging from Assyrian reliefs to contemporary photography, the mission of the Williams College Museum of Art is to provoke new thinking about art, museums, and the world. A defining feature of this institution is its unique exhibition style; presenting art within its cultural and historical context to incite thought-provoking experiences.

  • You can learn more about the Williams College Museum of Art here

29. University Art Galleries

The University Art Galleries of UC Irvine provide different platforms for interdisciplinary art dialogue. Including The Major Works of Art Series, The Emerging Artist Series, and The Critical Aesthetics Program, the UAG encourages lively discourse between UCI students and faculty and the local and international community.

  • You can learn more about the Univerity Art Gallery here

28. Student Union Galleries and Sullivan Galleries

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago features two art galleries; one for student showcases and one for emerging artist exhibitions. The Student Union Galleries produces 12 to 15 exhibitions of student work every year and encourages constructive dialogue between students, faculty and art professionals. The Sullivan Galleries is a teaching gallery that provides the school and the public with opportunities to engage with the art of today.

  • You can learn more about the Student Union Galleries and Sullivan Galleries here

27. Fralin Museum

The 13,000 piece collection of the Fralin Museum supports the institutions mission of providing the university and local community with an opportunity to learn from and study works of art. The Fralin collection includes American and European paintings, works on paper, sculpture of the 15th-20th centuries, ancient Mediterranean art, Asian art, and Native American art.

  • You can learn more about the Fralin Museum here

26. Weisman Art Museum

Located in a stunning steel and brick building designed by architect Frank Gehry, the Weisman Art Museum provides a fresh, friendly, and engaging art experience for the university and local community. Featuring early 20h century American artists, such as Georgia O’Keefee, the collection of the WAM also includes ceramics and contemporary art.

  • You can learn more about the Weisman Art Musuem here

25. Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

With nearly 80,000 visitors per year, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art contains a 35,000 object collection. Highlights of this vast collection include works of Asian art, more than 22,000 works on paper dating from the 15th century to the present, ancient and contemporary European art, African sculpture and textiles, and pre-Columbian ceramics.

  • You can learn more about the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art here

24. Arizona State University Art Museum

The ASU Art Museum was founded in 1950 following the donation of 149 American and Mexican works of art by local lawyer Oliver B. James. Today, the collection comprises about 12,000 works of contemporary art, art of the Americas, prints, crafts, ceramics, and art of Arizona. The ASU Art Museum presents engaging exhibitions and programming to educate and inspire its visitors.

  • You can learn more about the Arizona State University Art Museum here

23. Colby College Museum of Art

With five wings spanning over 38,000 square feet of exhibition space, the Colby College Museum of Art was founded in 1959. With an 8,000 piece collection specializing in American and contemporary art, the collection serves as a teaching tool for university faculty and students. Additional collection highlights include works on paper, European paintings and Chinese antiquities.

  • You can learn more about the Colby College Museum of Art here

22. Rose Art Museum

Founded in 1961, the Rose Art Museum is dedicated to fostering artistic expression through the collection and exhibition of 20th and 21st century art. A strength of the 8,000 piece collection includes American art of the 1960s and 1970s with works by artists such as Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol.

  • You can learn more about the Rose Art Museum here

21. Indiana University Art Museum

Growing from a small teaching collection in 1941 to one of the foremost university museums in the United States, the IU Art Museum boasts a 45,000 piece collection ranging from ancient jewelry to paintings by Monet and Picasso. Striving to enrich the lives of its visitors, the IU Art Museum’s diverse collection represents almost every art-producing culture throughout history.

  • You can learn more about Indiana University Art Museum here

20. University of Iowa Museum of Art

With a collection of 14,000 works of art, the University of Iowa Museum of Art strives to advance education and research in the fields of art and art history. Though the collection, conservation and exhibition of major works of art, the museum advocates the appreciation of art, and the cultures that create it, from around the world. With paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, ceramics, textiles, jade and silver, highlights of the collection include works by Kandinsky, Matisse, Picasso, 2,000 objects of African art, 6,000 examples of Western printmaking, and 2,000 pre-Columbian objects.

  • You can learn more about the University of Iowa Museum of Art here

19. Smith College Museum of Art

Believing that students should learn about art of their time, President L. Clark Seelye of Smith College began collecting works of American art in 1879, only three years after the college’s inaugural year. While the collection represents a global interest, including works by European, African, Islamic, and Asian artists, American art constitutes a core strength of the collection.

  • You can learn more about the Smith College Museum of Art here

18. Allen Memorial Art Museum

Founded in 1917, the collection of the Allen Memorial Art Museum represents an overview of art across the globe and through time. The 14,000 piece collection contains art from Africa, ancient and modern America, Asia, Europe, and Japan. The AMAM also contains archival and photographic collections.

  • You can learn more about the Allen Memorial Art Museum here

17. Spencer Art Museum 

Home to a collection of almost 36,000 works in all media, the Spencer Museum of Art explores arts’ ability to inspire curiosity, creativity and connections among people. With a richly diverse collection spanning the globe from ancient to contemporary times, special strengths include medieval art, Japanese Edo-period paintings and prints, 20th-century Chinese paintings, and an ethnographic collection containing approximately 10,000 works of Native American, African, Latin American and Australian objects.

  • You can learn more about the Spencer Museum of Art here

16. Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

As the only museum dedicated to exhibiting, collecting and preserving contemporary works by Native artists, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) cares for a multi-media collection of 7,500 works of art. Through progressive exhibitions and programing, the MoCNA strives to enhance the scholarship, discourse and interpretation of Native art, both nationally and internationally.

  • You can learn more about the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts here

15. Old College Gallery

Housed in a National Historic Register building built in 1834, the collection of the Old College Gallery comprises ceramics of the ancient Americas, 20th century American painting and sculpture, and a collection Russian works dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. The Gallery hosts yearly exhibitions drawing from the permanent collection and traveling exhibitions.

  • You can learn more about the Old College Gallery here

14. Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

This AAM accredited institution is one of Alabama’s leading art museums with a collection of 2,000 works of traditional and contemporary art. The museum’s mission to preserve, enhance, research and interpret its collection is achieved through yearly exhibitions and engaging programs. The museum stands as a testament to Auburn University’s commitment to the “transformative power of art”.

  • You can learn more about the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art here

13. Chazen Museum of Art

Housing the largest collection of art in Wisconsin, the Chazen Art Museum was founded in 1970. With more than 20,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative art pieces, the museum strives to continue the mission of the University of Wisconsin-Madison through education, research and public service. The collection represents diverse cultures of different time periods from ancient Greece to modern Africa.

  • You can learn more about the Chazen Museum of Art here

12. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

As one of the largest art museums in the United States, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA), inspires imagination and encourages dialogue through art and film. Founded in 1963, the BAM/PFA features diverse collections of more than 16,000 objects and 14,000 films and videos. Following the initial donation of works by Abstract Epressionist Hans Hofmann, the collection has grown to include historical and contemporary Asian art, early American painting, mid-twentieth century conceptual and contemporary international art, and California and Bay Area art.

    You can learn more about the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive here

11. Grey Art Gallery

As NYU’s fine art museum, the Grey serves to collect, preserve, study and exhibit evidence of human culture. Through its collections and programming, the Grey emphasizes art’s historical, culture and social contexts; creating a museum-laboratory that facilitates the understanding of arts’ contribution to civilization. The Grey’s approximately 6,000 piece collection includes primarily late nineteenth – and twentieth-century works, including artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Adolph Gottlieb and Ad Reinhardt.

  • You can learn more about the Grey Art Gallery here

10. University of Colorado Art Museum

Since its founding in 1939, The Colorado Art Museum at Boulder has been a center for art exploration and has strived to serve “as a generator and incubator of artistic inquiry”. Through its 8,000 object collection, the museum strives to inspire critical dialogue and promote art appreciation. Their collections include ancient and classical art, art of the Americas, Asia, Europe, and modern and contemporary art.

  • You can learn more about the University of Colorado Art Museum here

9. University of Mississippi Museum

The University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses complex functions as a cultural hub for the university and local community. Its collection includes Southern folk art, Greek and Roman artifacts, 19th century scientific instruments, and American fine art. The Museum also operates the Rowan Oak and Walton-Young historic houses. Rowan Oak was once the home of William Faulkner, and the Walton-Young was the home of satirist Stark Young.

  • You can learn more about the University of Mississippi Museum here

8. Howard University Gallery of Art

In an effort to offer rotating exhibitions of contemporary arts and crafts to its students, the Board of Trustees of Howard University established the Howard Gallery of Art in 1928. Following the successful opening exhibition of oil paintings and water colors in 1930, a policy was adopted to establish a permanent collection. Highlights of the collection include African artifacts from the Alan Locke collection, Renaissance and Baroque paintings from the Kress Foundation, and the Irving Gumbel collection of European prints.

  • You can learn more about the Howard University Gallery of Art here

7. RISD Museum

The Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art tasks itself with acquiring, preserving and exhibiting examples of art and design representative of the world’s cultures from ancient to modern times. The RISD Museum of Art contains a collection of 100,000 objects housed in five different buildings, including the Waterman building, Pendleton House, Radeke Building, Farago Wing, and the Chace Center. The collection represents ancient Greece and Rome, Asian art, contemporary art, costumes and textiles, decorative arts, painting and sculpture, and prints drawings and photographs.

  • You can learn more about the RISD Museum here

6. Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum

The Broad Art Museum collection is unique among contemporary art museums given its inheritance of MSU’s former Kresge Art Museum’s historical collection. As such, the Broad’s collection includes items from Greece, Rome, the ancient Americas, and Medieval and Renaissance Europe combined with modern and contemporary works by artists such as Chuck Close and Ann Hamilton. The Broad Art Museum is dedicated to understanding contemporary culture and ideas and is able to utilize their diverse collection to do so.

  • You can learn more about the Broad Art Museum here

5. Princeton University Art Museum

Beginning almost simultaneously with the founding of Princeton University in 1746, then the College of New Jersey, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the oldest collecting institutions in the United States. Portraits of King George II and Colonel Governor of New Jersey, Jonathan Belcher, were the first objects in a collection that today includes 92,000 objects and spans the globe in time and culture. Unfortunately, those initial portraits were both destroyed in the 1777 Battle of Princeton; however, they represented the nascent collection efforts that continued over the next century.

  • You can learn more about the Princeton University Art Museum here

4. Hood Art Museum 

After its founding in 1769, Dartmouth College began collecting works of art that would become the collection of the future Hood Museum of Art. Originally stored in five different buildings, the collections are now located in one building built in 1985. The Hood prides itself on being a teaching institution, and its 65,000 object collection of Asian, Near East, African, American, European, Oceanic, and contemporary art is highly utilized by Dartmouth faculty in the Bernstein Study-Storage Center. This classroom-like setting allows for direct engagement with the collections by university students.

  • You can learn more about the Hood Museum of Art here

3. Harvard Art Museums

Composed of three museums, the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, the Harvard Art Museums strive to advance the appreciation of art on campus, in the local community, and worldwide. The 250,000 object collection comprised of artworks from Africa, North, Central and South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Oceania and the West Indies is used to enrich the teaching and learning by university faculty and students.

  • You can learn more about the Harvard University Art Museums here

2. Yale University Art Gallery

Founded in 1832 with the donation of more than one-hundred paintings by John Trumbull, the Yale University Art Gallery encourages the appreciation and understanding of art and its role in society through research, teaching, and contributions from faculty, staff and the community. The permanent collection of the Gallery contains more than 200,000 objects including American decorative arts, American painting and sculpture, modern and contemporary art, photographs, prints and drawings, and the arts of Africa, ancient America, Islam, Asia, Europe, and the Indo-Pacific.

  • You can learn more about the Yale University Art Gallery here

1. Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art

The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art contains a 5,000 piece collection of works on paper, textiles and sculpture. The collection features international and local artists from the 15th century to the present, including notables such as Kandinsky and Warhol. This AAM (American Association of Museums) accredited museum serves its Northwestern community through colleting and presenting art that facilitates the university’s curriculum, hosting educational programs, and conducting original research.

    You can learn more about the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art here

Ashlee GrudeMuseum Director 

Ashlee received a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology and a Master of Arts degree inAnthropology from Northern Illinois University. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies and is currently the Museum Supervisor at the Downers Grove Museum. She is a free-lance writer, wife and mom and lover of all things museum.