Academy of Art University: Family Empire Inspires Globally

Richard S. Stephens founded the the Academy of Art University ( in 1929 in San Francisco, California. The university has since been passed on to his son, Richard A. Stephens, and then to his granddaughter, Elisa Stephens. While the university is clearly a family business, it has gone on to inspire artists from all over the world.

With over 18,000 students, the Academy of Art University is the largest accredited art and design university in the United States. Its reach stretches across various mediums as well, reaching across design, fine art, and entertainment media. It also has an Automobile Museum and sports teams.

One division of the university is the School of Fashion which held its 21st runway showcase during New York Fashion Week at Skylight Clarkson Square on September 9, 2017. Graduates of both the BFA and MFA programs presented collections that worked with sustainability and unveiling culture.

Many artists from California participated, but there were also artists from the East Coast, China, and Mexico. Regardless of where they were from, each artist used various parts of the world to inspire their work. Joana Jadallah from California used her Palestinian ancestry as inspiration. Cana Klebanoff from the New Jersey used the Japanese Samurai for inspiration. Jelly Shan was inspired by the peace of religious environments in northern China. Carlos Rodriguez used his culture’s traditional Mexican embroidery in his designs.

Many of these artists were selected for CFDA Fashion Future Showcase, and they all have impressive resumes, including various awards and internships. They are names to look for in the future of fashion.

By reaching globally based artists, the Academy of Art University unleashes the power to reach people all over the world. For a university that remains family owned, its reaches are far and wide. With continued growth, it will be intriguing to see how its students succeed in the next New York Fashion Week.


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