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Top 20 Animation Schools in the Midwest - 2014

Written by ACR StaffApril 17, 2014
Midwest
Did you know.... In 2013 every movie nominated for an Oscar Award in the Best Visual Effects category had graduates from The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School at Universal Studios Orlando) in the credits. This year (2014), four of the five nominated films - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, and Star Trek Into Darkness- included DAVE School graduates. Those 4 films alone employed nearly 70 DAVE School graduates last year.
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Our 2014 rankings of the top animation programs in the Midwest. We define the Midwest as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.


1. Columbia College of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Established in 1890, Columbia College is considered one of the top art and media schools in the nation. Home to around 11,000 students, the school offers more than 120 academic majors and programs. Offerings for aspiring animators include a BA in Cinema Art + Science with an Animation Focus, a BFA in Traditional Animation and a BFA in Computer Animation. Students may also be interested in the BFA in Illustration program, the BA in Art and Design, the BA in Interactive Arts and Media (IAM), or the BFA in IAM. 

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, which offers access to art museums, animation and film studios, nightlife, and more, Columbia College consists of a collection of large buildings which house everything from the school’s dance center and the media production center to a sculpture garden and loft apartments.

Columbia College graduates have studied in more than 70 countries abroad and many have found employment at top studios such as Blue Sky Studios (Columbia College graduate Dan Segarra has worked on Ice Age: Continental Drift, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Ice Age 4), Pixar Animation Studios, Nick Digital, and the award-winning Adult Swim Shows.

22. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio State University offers a wide variety of programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include an MFA in Digital Animation and Interactive Media, a BFA and MFA in Art and Technology, and a BA in Art. Students wishing to enhance their education may complete an additional major in Film Studies, Design, or Computer and Information Science -OR- declare a Minor in Studio Art or Video Arts.

The Ohio State University (OSU) is one of the largest universities in the U.S. Established in 1870, OSU is home to 63,964 students enrolled in more than 175 majors and 475 academic specializations. Ranked among the Top 20 Best Public Universities for 2013 by U.S. News & World Report, OSU sits on a 1,700-acre campus in the state’s capital and largest city—Columbus. This major city has a population of more than 800,000 and offers access to a number of production studios, art & culture, nightlife, and more.

3. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media offers several top-tier programs for aspiring animators. In addition, a number of related programs are available for aspiring animators and working animators looking to enhance their education and career opportunities. Options include a BA or BFA in Animation and a BA or BS in Digital Cinema. Students may select a double major in more than a dozen other areas of art as well as a Minor in Animation, Digital Cinema, Visual Effects, Sound Design, or Writing for Film and Television. 

DePaul University also offers a number of graduate programs for animators wishing to acquire advanced art and technical skills as well Combined Degree programs. Graduate Offerings include an MA or MFA in Animation, an MS in Cinema Production, an MFA in Cinema, and an MFA in Screenwriting.

Founded in 1898 as St. Vincent's College and with just 70 students, DePaul University is the country’s largest Catholic University. It is home to more than 24,400 students enrolled in nearly 300 undergraduate programs of study, across 10 colleges and schools and 5 campuses. The main campus sits on 36 acres in the city’s upscale (but trendy) Lincoln Park neighborhood. The school’s Downtown Chicago campus consists of 10 buildings and centers and it is home to the College of Computing and Digital Media.

The Downtown location offers access to all of the city’s art venues, production studios, film locations, recreation, entertainment, and more.

4. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Established in 1866 as Chicago Academy of Design the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is “the most influential art school in the United States,” by Columbia University’s Art Critics National Arts Journalism Survey. The school offers award-winning undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and graduate degree programs in all areas of art and design. Programs for aspiring animators are offered through the schools unique Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation. Offerings include a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Concentrations in Animation, Film, Video, and New Media. SAIC also offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio.

According to SAIC, what sets the program apart from other graduate programs is “its interdisciplinary focus that allows students to design a unique curricular pathway to their degree that includes study in any of the school’s studio departments.” Besides the Department of Film, Video, New Media, and Animation, participating departments that may be of interest to animators include Design and Emerging Technologies, Art and Technology Studies, and Painting and Drawing.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the U.S. It has a student population of 3,337 and its campus is yet another major attraction among Chicago’s top attractions including the Loop, the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park, Grant Park, the Lakefront, the city’s most infamous structures, and more. This awe-inspiring location is a bonus for all SAIC students.

55. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is home to the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, Johnny Carson School of Theater & Film. The College/School offers a wide variety of competitive programs for aspiring artists—including animators. Options include BFA in Film and New Media Production (FNM) with multiple focus areas. They include Computer Animation, Film & Digital Video Production, New Media Design, Visual Effects, Screenwriting, and Post-Production, Directing, and Producing. This program prepares students for a career in Animation, Digital Art, Screenwriting, Cinematography, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Editing, and more. In addition, the College of Arts & Sciences offers a BA, BS or Minor in Film Studies.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln was chartered in 1869. The school sits on a 600+ acre campus just steps from Lincoln’s Downtown area, and it is home to more than 24,000 students enrolled in 200+ programs throughout 10 colleges.

6. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri
Established in 1885, Kansas City Art Institute sits on a 15-acre campus in Kansas City’s historic arts district by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The school offers an award-winning animation program which features internship opportunities that often lead to employment at studios such as Disney, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon, Titmouse Inc., and more. Offerings include Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees in 13 areas of emphasis.

Emphasis areas for aspiring animators include Animation, Digital Filmmaking, Digital Media, and Illustration. Animation, digital media, and other student artists have the opportunity to show their work at the annual Frame by Frame Festival—presented by the KCAI Animation Department.

Kansas City Art Institute is home to more than 800 students as well as the popular H&R Block Artspace and the Jannes Library. The Library houses a large collection of digital images dating from pre-historic times to the latest contemporary work.

77. Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
Established in 1918, Ball State University (BSU) is one of the best universities in the Midwest as ranked by The Princeton Review for the past 9 years. The school offers a BFA in Animation and Drawing, an MFA in Animation, a BA in Studio Art with an Emphasis in Drawing, and an MA in Visual Arts Studio with an Emphasis in Drawing. Students wishing to enhance their education may be interested in the BA in Telecommunications (TCOM) with Options in Digital Production: Emerging Media, Film and Media Studies, Video, and Audio or the MA in TCOM (Digital Storytelling). Minor Program options include Film, TCOM, Film/Screenwriting, and Interdepartmental Digital Media. 

Ball State University sits on a 731-acre main campus and it has 400 additional acres of research property. Home to some 22,000 students, BSU offers 180 majors, including 12 pre-professional programs, more than 100 masters and doctoral degrees, and a variety of minors and certificates. Many programs are nationally recognized, including the school’s animation program.

8. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Established in 1882, Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) is an independent college of art and design.  The school sits on a 488-acre campus and it is home to 550 students enrolled in 15 majors in Art, Design, Craft, and Interactive Media. Programs for aspiring animators include a BFA in Animation, a BFA in Drawing, and a BFA in Illustration. Aspiring animators may also consider the BFA in Video to enhance their education and employment opportunities.

9. Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) of Ferris State University (FSU) was established in 1931. It is home to more than 1,400 students enrolled in a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and dual enrollment programs. The school also offers single classes in computer art, drawing, and other areas to both adults and youth.

Programs for aspiring animators include a BA in Digital Media with a high concentration of coursework in 2D and 3D Animation, Digital Imaging, Interactive Design, and Video and Motion Graphics. KCAD also offers BA degrees in Drawing and Illustration and several graduate programs that may be of interest to students wishing to enhance their education and career opportunities. Options include an MFA in Drawing and a Master of Visual Critical Studies (MVCS).

As part of Ferris State University, KCAD students have access to a vast 880-acre main campus, 19 off-campus sites, and more than 180 programs through 7 additional degree-granting colleges. FSU offers a Film Studies Minor through the College of Arts and Sciences, and a BAS in Digital Animation-Game Design through the College of Professional and Technological Studies.

10. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio
Founded in 1910, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is home to a top-tier school of art that boasts one of the nation’s leading programs for animators and other digital artists. BGSU’s School of Art-Digital Arts Division offers a BFA in Digital Arts and a BA in Art with a Digital Arts Specialization. Focus areas include Computer Animation & Video, Interactive Multimedia, and Imaging. BGSU also offers an MFA Degree in Digital Arts that offers intensive study in the areas of 3D Modeling and Animation, Interactive Multimedia Development, Digital Video, Digital Imaging, and more.

Other programs worth considering include the BFA in Studio Art with a Major in 2D Studies, which includes Drawing and Painting, or the BA in Art that includes 2D Studies, 3D Studies, and Digital Arts. The Theatre & Film Department offers a BA in Film with a Specialization in Film Production and a Film Minor. 

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) was named one of the top public universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school sits on a 1,338-acre campus just 30 minutes from Toledo. BGSU is home to more than 20,000 students enrolled in 200+ undergraduate majors and programs.

11. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
Established in 1926, the College of Creative Studies (CCS) has a reputation for producing top-tier talent that studios notice. In fact, many CCS graduates work at some of the top studios and networks in the country. Just a few include Disney, DreamWorks, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and ABC. This pioneering school was one of the first arts and crafts organizations to offer a formal, four-year program in art.

Formerly named “The Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts,” the College for Creative Studies started with just 280 students. Today, the school is home to more than 1,400 students enrolled in more than a dozen graduate and undergraduate programs in design and transportation design. Program offerings for aspiring animators include a BFA in Entertainment Arts with a Concentration in Animation and BFA Degrees in Design and Illustration. The school also offers Minors in Animation & Digital Media, Illustration, Fine Arts, and Visual Culture.

1212. Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri
Webster University’s School of Communications is home to an admirable collection of programs for aspiring animators. Offerings include BA Degrees in Animation, Art-Studio Art (with an Emphasis in Drawing), Audio Production, Film Production, Film Studies, Scriptwriting, Video Production, and a Self-Designed Interdisciplinary Major (BA).

The school also offers Minors in Animation Production, Interactive Digital Media, Film Studies, Scriptwriting, and Video Production, and Certificates in Animation Production, Digital Media, and Interactive Digital Media. Graduates from WU's School of Communications have worked on all three installments of The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Webster University offers more than 100 undergraduate programs, dozens of graduate programs, and variety of online programs across 5 schools and colleges including the College of Arts and Sciences, George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology, the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts, the School of Education, and the School of Communications. 

13. Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Established in 1849, Eastern Michigan University is home to around 23,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across 5 colleges and a graduate school. The school, which sits on an 800+ acre campus, is just 10 miles east of Ann Arbor, 40 miles west of Detroit, and 20 minutes from Detroit Metropolitan Airport. EMU also has sites in Detroit, Flint, Jackson, Livonia, Traverse City, and more.

Eastern Michigan University (EMU)-Ypsilanti is home of the Simulation, Animation, and Gaming Program (SAG). Housed within the College of Technology, the program offers a BS Degree with a Focus in Animation, Gaming and Simulation. This multidisciplinary degree offers coursework in animation, story development, and camerawork in 3D, rigging, and more. Students may want to enhance their education and career options by taking courses in other areas or even take on an additional degree program or major.

The College of Arts and Sciences offers additional options such as a BFA in Art, a BA/BS in Arts and Entertainment Management, a BA/BS in Electronic Media and Film Studies, a BA/BS in Entertainment Design and Technology, and an MFA in Fine Arts.

14. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Minneapolis School of Fine Arts (MCAD) shares a block with the famed Minneapolis Institute of Art and it offers well over a dozen BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs for artists of all kinds. This includes an impressive collection of programs for aspiring animators.
Offerings include BFA Degrees in Animation, Comic Art, Drawing and Painting, Filmmaking, and Illustration. The school also offers an outstanding Master of Fine Arts (MFA) that highlights advanced study in the areas of Animation, Illustration, Drawing, Interactive Media, Filmmaking, Comic Arts, and more.

The Minneapolis School of Fine Arts opened its doors 1886 to just 28 artists. The school’s campus consisted of a small rented house. Today, MCAD sits on a 10-acre campus, and it is home to around 800 students from 29 states and 12 countries. The campus features artist studios, gallery spaces, a sculpture garden and more.

15. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) offers several top-tier programs for aspiring animators as well as opportunities to study in New York and Abroad. First, the school offers BFA Degrees in Animation, Illustration, Cinematic Arts, and Fine Arts. The BFAs in Illustration, Cinematic Arts, and Fine Arts are excellent options for students wishing to enhance their education and career opportunities. The MFA is an excellent option as well. The program allows students to complete advanced coursework in Animation, Illustration, Video, Interactive Design, Drawing, and more.

Next, CCAD art students have the opportunity to study in New York through the schools New York Studio Residency Program (DUMBO Brooklyn, NY), where they receive individual studio space, weekly critiques, and seminars. Study abroad opportunities are also available in Chile, China, England, and Italy.

And finally, Columbus College of Art and Design was established in 1879. This private college of more than 1,300 students hosts artists from 40 states and 35 foreign countries. The school, which sits on a 17-acre campus in Downtown Columbus is just a stone’s throw away from the Columbus Museum of Art. CCAD offers a BFA in 9 majors, an MFA program, and 8 minors.

16. Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, Illinois
Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU Carbondale) is home to the College of Mass Communications and Media Arts-Department of Radio, Television, and Digital Media. The Department manages the dynamic Digital Media Arts and Animation Program. The Program leads to a Bachelor of Arts Degree (BA) and covers everything from Writing for Media Arts to 3D Animation to Multimedia Production. Students wishing to enhance their education have several other options to choose from including Television/Video Production and an MFA in Media Arts.

Founded in 1869, Southern Illinois University Carbondale is the flagship campus of the Southern Illinois University system. The school sits on more than 1,000 acres and is home to nearly 18,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. SIU Carbondale offers associate, bachelors, masters, doctoral and professional degrees in more than 200 areas of study across 11 colleges and schools.

17.  Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri
Missouri State University (MSU) opened its doors in 1906 to just 543 students in off-campus facilities. Today, the school sits on a 450-acre main campus and it is home to more than 20,000 students from 40 states and 70 countries. Besides the main campus in Springfield, MSU has campuses in West Plains, MO, Mountain Grove, MO, and Dalian, China.

Missouri State University (MSU) has a very active art and design department that offers 14 areas of study, a foundations program, and more than a dozen minors. Options for aspiring animators include a BFA in Art, Animation emphasis and the BS in Electronic Arts, Animation emphasis. Program curriculums prepare students to work in the Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming, Advertising, Film, and Television industries. 

Several other programs might be of interest to students wishing to enhance their education and career opportunities. They include a BA/BFA in Digital Arts, a BA/BFA in Drawing, and a BFA in Illustration.

18. Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois
Bradley University’s Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts (Theater Program) is the former home of Jed Schlanger—a member of the DreamWorks animation production team that created the Oscar nominated Animated Feature Film “The Croods.” The College is also home to a top-tier animation program. The College’s Interactive Media Program offers Concentrations in Animation and Visual Effects (4-year Program) and an Interactive Media Minor. The 4-year program leads to a BA or BS degree.

Accredited by 22 national accrediting agencies, Bradley University offers more than 130 other undergraduate and graduate programs across 5 colleges and a graduate school. The school, which dates back to 1897, is home to around 5,700 students and it sits on an 84-acre campus just one mile from Downtown Peoria. Besides a coveted location that offers access to the Peoria Riverfront (the city’s art center), Bradley is one of only a small percentage of institutions that offer Internet2 access. Internet2 provides learning opportunities in collaboration with students and faculty at other institutions.

19. Dakota State University, Madison, South Dakota
Dakota State University’s (DSU) College of Arts and Sciences is home the school’s Digital Arts & Design (DAD) Program. The DAD program leads to a BS in Digital Arts & Design and offers Concentrations in Production Animation, Digital Storytelling, and Computer Graphics. Other offerings include a Certificate in Information Systems Management with a Concentration in Multimedia or Multimedia Design and Production, and Minors in Production Animation (2D), Production Animation (3D), Art, Digital Editing, and Computer Graphic Design.

Founded in 1881, Dakota State University is a public institution that specializes in computer technology. The school, which sits on 20+ acres, is home to more than 3,100 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across 5 colleges.

20. Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio
The Shawnee State University (SSU), Department of Fine, Digital, and Performing Art is home to an exceptional program for aspiring animators. The BFA in Visualist Design and Interactive Media offers 3 tracks including the Animation Track, Interactive Media Track, and Design Track. The Department also offers a broad BFA in Drawing that includes a number of Illustration and Advanced Drawing courses. In addition to the programs mentioned above, animators have access to state-of-the-art studios at SSU and a variety of supplemental courses in the areas of Digital Video, Directing, and more. 

Established in 1986, Shawnee State University (SSU) is situated on a 62-acre campus along the Ohio River in Historic Portsmouth. The school is home to 4,400 students enrolled in 80 bachelor’s and associate degree programs and 2 graduate programs. While SSU is young compared to other schools in Ohio, the school already has an impressive placement rate. Eighty-three percent of graduates find employment in a related field within 6 months of graduating from SSU.