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Parsons focuses on creating engaged citizens and outstanding artists, designers, scholars and business leaders through a design-based professional and liberal education.
Parsons students learn to rise to the challenges of living, working and creative decision making in a world where human experience is increasingly designed. The school embraces curricular innovation, pioneering uses of technology, collaborative methods and global perspectives on the future of design.
History of Parsons
Parsons has been a forerunner in the field of art and design since its founding in 1896. Back then, it was called the Chase School, named after American impressionist painter William Merritt Chase, who led a small group of Progressives who seceded from the Art Students League of New York in search of freer, more dramatic and individual expression.
In 1904, Frank Alvah Parsons joined Chase; six years later, he became the School's president. Anticipating a new wave of the Industrial Revolution, Parsons predicted that art and design would soon be inexorably linked to the engines of industry. His prophetic vision was borne out in a series of firsts for the School:
Each program has profoundly impacted American life. In 1939, nine years after Frank Alvah Parsons' death, the School officially adopted his name.
By locating visual beauty in the ordinary things of middle-class American life, Parsons virtually invented the modern concept of design in America. From the beginning, the faculty cared about the spaces people lived in, the garments they wore, the advertising they read, the furniture and tableware they used. The principles they taught had the effect of democratizing taste and making it available to America on a broad scale. As the modern curriculum developed, many successful designers remained closely tied to the School, and by the mid-1960s, Parsons had become "the training ground for Seventh Avenue."
The social and political upheaval of the late-1960s would challenge the foundations of several of the School's departments, especially Interior Design. Whereas the curriculum formerly had emphasized middle- and upper-class homes, the program redirected students to work on more urban and socially conscious projects, such as prisons, hospitals, and housing for the underprivileged. In keeping with this new orientation, the graduating class of 1965 mounted "A Place to Live," an exhibition that analyzed substandard urban housing and proposed alternatives. Today, every Parsons department shares a commitment to design as both a social responsibility and an intellectual practice.
In 1970, the School became a division of the New School for Social Research (now The New School). The campus moved from Sutton Place to Greenwich Village in 1972. The merger with a vigorous, fully accredited university was a source of new funding and energy, which expanded the focus of a Parsons education.
Internationalism has always been an essential ingredient of Parsons' success. In 1920, Parsons was the first art and design school in America to found a campus abroad. Parsons also has four affiliate schools in France, South Korea, the Dominican Republic, and Japan, which operate independently but embrace Parsons' philosophy and teaching methodology. Students can also participate in exchange programs with other art and design schools. Today, 30 percent of Parsons' students are international - a testament to its global reputation for design education excellence. Since the School's earliest years, the overwhelming majority of its teachers have been professional designers who teach part-time, which gives students the unique advantage of being taught by New York's successful working artists and designers.
Faculty members and visiting critics — like installation artist Brian Tolle, architect David Lewis, and communication designer William Bevington; are principals in their own design firms, hold key positions in the art and design community and frequently have their work published. Parsons' strong ties to industry bring numerous guest lectures and critics into forums and classrooms. Visiting critics include: Richard Meier, Donna Karan, Mayer Rus, Arthur Corwin, and Paula Scher.
In recent years, the School has strongly promoted technological skills development. By mastering computer graphics, computer-assisted design, interactive multimedia, digital imaging, and a host of other technological tools, Parsons' graduates are on the leading edge of an ever-evolving design world.
Parsons rigorous programs and distinguished faculty embrace curricular innovation, pioneer new uses of technology, and instill in students a global perspective in design. The result is an educational experience that is authentic and contemporary. The young designers who graduate from Parsons School of Design are unquestionably the real thing.
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