The College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University is committed to the education of cultural leaders who will engage and inspire audiences through performance, visual art, design, scholarship, and commentary. We provide the tools for self-discovery and risk-taking in an environment that thrives on critical thought and action. VPA contains the Department of Art, Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, Department of Design, Department of Drama, Setnor School of Music, and Department of Transmedia. Established in 1873 College of Fine Arts (CFA) opens. It is the first degree-conferring organization of its kind in the United States.
  • 1877 Department of music founded.
  • 1899 John Crouse Memorial College for Women (Crouse College) is formally dedicated.
  • 1910 Courses in speech communication at the University are taken over by the newly founded Department of Oratory, which becomes the School of Oratory in 1913. SU was the first school to award a bachelor of arts in oral English.
  • 1913 The University becomes the first institution in the country to pursue advanced work in photography.
  • 1941 School of Speech and Dramatic Art (SDA) omits the “Public” in its former title.
  • 1945 SU Chancellor William P. Tolley reorganizes CFA’s areas into the School of Architecture, the School of Art, and the School of Music.
  • 1946 SU’s Opera Workshop is born. It is the only experimental opera classroom-theater of its kind on an American university campus.
  • 1970 The Department of Design is established in the School of Art.
  • 1972 The College of Visual and Performing Arts is created. It is comprised of the School of Art, the Department of Drama, the School of Music, and the Department of Speech Communication (audio and speech pathology are moved to the School of Education).
  • 1992 The School of Art becomes the School of Art and Design to reflect that half its students and faculty are engaged in design disciplines.
  • 2001 After the University dissolves the College for Human Development, programs in environmental design (interiors), fashion design, and textile design as well as retail management and consumer studies and the Sue Ann Genet Lecture Series move to VPA.
  • 2003 The Department of Speech Communication changes its name to the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies to appropriately reflect the nature of its curriculum.


Browse the College of Visual and Performing Arts Collections:


Communication and Rhetorical Studies



Music Education

Music Industry

Setnor School of Music