The Department of Art at the University of Mississippi was established in 1948, one hundred years after the University first offered a session. The Department was the result of years of effort by then Chancellor J. D. Williams who was awarded a grant from the General Education Board, a branch of the Rockefeller Foundation, to study the feasibility of an art school in Mississippi. The result was that the first public art department in the state was located at “Ole Miss” because of the success of the liberal arts department.
Under the first Chairman, Stuart R. Purser, the Department offered bachelor’s degrees in two disciplines, art education and studio arts. The degree offerings were expanded with the establishment of the Master of Fine Arts degree in 1952, and the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1954.
In 1981, the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning assigned to the Department the mission role to develop art within the state and to become nationally competitive. In 1982, the Department received initial accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).