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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

Top 25 Animation Schools and Colleges in the Midwest – 2016

Written by ACR StaffMay 7, 2016
Did You Know.....Full Sail University offers online degree programs in computer animation, game art, and game design? Learn more about Full Sail University's online programs.
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Our 2016 rankings of the top animation programs in the Midwest. We define the Midwest as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

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1. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers more than 25 art and design programs,  including several popular programs for aspiring animators. Options include a BFA or MFA in Studio with a Concentration Animation. A Certificate in Studio is also on the menu. Programs are offered through SAIC’s competitive Film, Video, New Media, and Animation Department (FVNMA). 

Students in the FVNMA Department have access to world-class resources such as the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. Specifics include The Video Data Bank—the leading resource in the United States for videos by and about contemporary artists, The Gene Siskel Film Center—one of the country's premiere screening venues dedicated to promoting alumni, student, and faculty work, and The Donna and Howard Stone Gallery for film, video, and new media in the Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing.

Founded in 1866 as the Chicago Academy of Design, SAIC is one of the oldest accredited independent schools of art and design in the country. Also one of the world’s top art and design schools, SAIC is home to 3,590 students from across the U.S. and 55 foreign countries.

2. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

The Ohio State University houses the College of Arts and Sciences, which is home to the Department of Art. The Department offers an interdisciplinary three-year MFA and four-year BFA program in Art with an Emphasis Art and Technology. The Art and Technology Emphasis allows students to study 3D Modeling and Animation, Art Games, Digital Imaging, Internet Art and more.

Established in 1870, the Ohio State University (OSU) is home to 65,184 students enrolled in more than 200 majors, specializations and minors across more than a dozen colleges and schools.

3. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University is home to 4,651 students enrolled in more than 40 programs from Animation and Game Development to Screenwriting and Interactive and Social Media. CDM students may a degree at any level from a BA to a PhD. Organized into three schools—the School of Cinematic Arts, the School of Computing, and the School of Design, CDM offers nine programs for aspiring animators. Options through the School of Cinematic Arts include a BA and BFA in Animation, a BA and BS in Digital Cinema, an MA and MFA in Animation, and an MS and MFA in Cinema Production. The Cinema programs feature Animation coursework, and a Minor in Animation is also available.

In addition to a wide variety of animation programs, DePaul University offers a Game, Cinema and Animation Summer Academy for future animation students. According to the Academy, the weeklong program features “hands-on instruction using the latest equipment and technology.” Academy participants have the opportunity to focus on 3D Computer Modeling and Animation for Games and Cinema, Computer Game Development, and Digital Cinema Production. 

Animation students also have the opportunity to gain experience through the school’s internship program. Students have worked with Walt Disney Animation Studios, WMS Gaming, Arc Worldwide/Leo Burnett, and Richter Studios.

Established in 1898, DePaul University is the nation’s largest Catholic University. The school is home to 23,539 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across 10 colleges and schools.

4. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 

The School of Media Arts at Columbia University is home to the Cinema Art + Science Department, which offers a variety of programs for aspiring animators.  The school lists the following options: a BFA in Computer Animation and Traditional Animation, BA in Cinema Art + Science with an Animation focus, BA in Game Art, BFA in Illustration, and an Animation Minor.

Established in 1890, Columbia College is home to more than 10,000 students enrolled in 100-plus academic majors or programs.

5. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio

Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) offers Animation, Advertising & Graphic Design, Cinematic Arts, Fashion Design, Fine Arts, Illustration, Industrial Design, Interior Design, and Photography majors. The Animation program, leads to a BA in 2D or 3D Animation. Concentrations include Animation/Experimental and Animation/Game. An MFA program is also on the menu as well as a Minor in Animation (2D or 3D). Students in the MFA program have executed individual projects from animation and video to interactive design and illustration.

Established in 1879, CCAD is home to more than 1,300 students,

6. Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Animation Department at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) offers a BFA in Animation. The program covers Stop Motion (e.g. Claymation) and Hand Drawn 2D Techniques. Another option is the BFA in Comic Art and the MFA. Graduates of the MFA program typically pursue creative work in the fields of Animation, Comic Arts, Interactive Media, Illustration, and others. Established in 1886, MCAD is home to 800 students enrolled in 20-plus programs across several creative departments.

7. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is home to the College of Arts and Sciences, which offers more than 150 majors. The School of Art is part of the College of Arts and Sciences and it houses BGSU’s Digital Arts program. Undergraduate offerings for aspiring animators include a BFA in Digital Arts and a BA in Art with a Digital Arts Specialization with three Focus Areas—Computer Animation & Video, Imaging, and Interactive Multimedia.

Graduate programs include an MFA in Art with a Major in Digital Arts (Computer Animation, Digital Imaging, and Interactive Media). According to the School of Art, the MFA program is an “intensive, 60-credit studio degree designed to prepare students to become both professional artists in industry and university-level instructors while developing their own studio practice.”

Founded in 1910, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is home 19,000 students, including 2,500 at BGSU Firelands in Huron, Ohio. The school offers more than 200 undergraduate majors and programs on the main campus and 22 at BGSU Firelands.

8. Purdue University – Purdue Polytechnic Institute, West Lafayette, Indiana

The College of Technology at Purdue University - Purdue Polytechnic Institute offers a BS in Computer Graphics Technology, which has expanded into eight areas of interest. Among them is Animation. An MS in Computer Graphics Technology is also on the menu as well as 5-Year BS/MS in Computer Graphics Technology. Graduates of the Animation programs at Purdue Polytechnic “work primarily in the animated film and video game industries,” says the school. 

A number of alumni have been part of the creative teams behind 2014 Oscar winner Big Hero 6 and 2014 Golden Globe winner How to Train Your Dragon 2, while others have gone on to work for educational software companies and in forensics animation and advertising.

Purdue University was established in 1869. It is home to 39,409 students enrolled in more than 200 majors across 10 academic colleges and schools.

9. University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is home to the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts. The College’s School of the Art offers a BFA in Art with an Animation Track and a Minor in Art. Several graduate options are also on the menu and include MFA degrees in Moving Image, New Media Arts, and Studio Arts. All MFA programs feature heavy Animation coursework.

The College of Applied Health Sciences, Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences has another option for animators that wish to work in science and medicine. The MS in Biomedical Visualization features animation electives from Animation I-IV and Modeling to Illustration, Visualization, and Virtual Reality. The program also highlights Graphic Design and Video Game Design and Development courses.

UIC was formed in 1982 “by the consolidation of two U. of I. campuses: the Medical Center campus, which dates back to the 19th century and the comprehensive Chicago Circle campus which replaced, in 1965, the two-year undergraduate Navy Pier campus that opened in 1946 to educate returning veterans.” Today, with more than 29,000 students enrolled in 240 degree programs and 53 certificate programs across 15 colleges, UIC is the largest university in the Chicago area.  

10. Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri 

Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) offers a BFA in Animation and a BFA in Digital Media with a Motion Graphics Concentration. According to the school, “motion graphics is a modern visual art form that exists at the crossroads of animation, graphic design and digital filmmaking,” which makes the Digital Media program a good fit for aspiring animators. KCAI Animation and Digital Media students have worked or interned for KCAI animation majors have worked or interned for Disney, DreamWorks, Digital Domain, Nickelodeon, Hallmark, Bill Plympton Studio, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Bazillion Pictures, and Titmouse Inc., to name a few.

Established in 1885, Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) is home to more than 700 students enrolled in BFA degree programs in 13 areas.