The Department of Art and Art History has a long and rich history dating back to the early years of the College of Agriculture which would eventually become Colorado State University. In 1894, the institution authorized the development of the Domestic Economy Program, meant for young women in the region. The Domestic Economy Program was initially intended to inform young women on domestic duties, but eventually paved the way for the CSU Department of Art and Art History.

Theodosia Ammons became the first overseer of the Domestic Economics program, which launched during the 1895-96 school year. Ammons sought to provide the young women of Colorado with both practical skills and a well-rounded educations within the College of Agriculture, which were otherwise unavailable to them. The program offered lessons in cooking, chemistry, and bacteriology, along with courses in the applied arts, such as sewing, decorating, and paper arts. Ammons was known to assist her students in acquiring jobs as nurses, teachers following their graduation from the program.

By the early 1960s, the Colorado College of Agriculture had become Colorado State University, and members of the Domestic Economics Program, including a woman named Clara Hatton, sought to differentiate the studies of applied arts and fine arts. This began the development of what would become The Department of Art, with Hatton serving as first chair of the department. Hatton served as chairwoman of the department until her retirement in 1966 after 30 years of service to Colorado State University.

Originally, the department was headquartered in the Old Main building in the Oval. Tragedy struck in the spring of 1970 when Old Main was burned to the ground in an act of suspected arson — the culminating event to a tumultuous year of social conflict and civil upheaval in Fort Collins and across the nation.

After the destruction of Old Main, the department required a new home. Students, parents, and faculty began petitioning for the creation of a separate Visual Arts building on campus. Construction of the Visual Arts Building began in 1973, and saw its first operational school year in 1975.

The Visual Art Building continues to house the Department of Art which was officially renamed The Department of Art and Art History in 2014. Today, The CSU Department of Art and Art History offers fourteen bachelors degree concentrations in studio arts, art history, and art education, and seven graduate concentrations in studio arts.


Below, you will find a video outlining some key points in the Department’s history: