History of the New Hampshire Institute of Art

The New Hampshire Institute of Art was founded in 1898 as the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences with the goal of cultivating an appreciation of the arts through progressive, educational instruction.  In 1924, the NH Board of Education certified our four-year program to prepare high school graduates to teach art.

Gaining Qualifications

In 1997, the New Hampshire Post-secondary Commission authorized the Institute to award the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree.  At that time, the Institute became the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA).  In 2001, NHIA received accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.  In 2011, we received accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Growth and Expansion

In the late 1990s, the college was the beneficiary of a $26 million bequest from the estate of Mary Fuller Russell.  This allowed the institute to establish an endowment and embark upon a series of expansions that revolutionized our campus.

  • 2001: With the opening of Fuller Hall, NHIA doubles the size of our urban campus, dramatically increasing the quantity and quality of classes offered.
  • 2004: NHIA teams up with the Greater Manchester YMCA to offer the first residential space for BFA students at Institute Hall. 
  • 2005: NHIA acquires the Hampshire House residence hall and the 77 Amherst Street building, which enabled us to increase studio space by 80 percent. 
  • 2007: NHIA purchases the 153 Concord St. building for senior studio space and opens the newly renovated Plaza residence hall. 
  • 2009: NHIA opens its first green technology building, the Lowell Street building, offering additional classroom, office, and residential space. 
  • 2011: NHIA opens a food service program in the same building as the Plaza residences. 
  • 2012: Chester College of New England, a small liberal arts college, closes. Over 80 percent of its student body and several full-time faculty members transfer to NHIA.
  • 2013: NHIA merges with the historic Sharon Arts Center, a hub for community arts education based in Peterborough and Sharon, NH. This sparks the introduction of our low-residency MFA programs. 

Looking Forward

NHIA has long been a hidden jewel. With these changes, and many more to come, we’ll reveal ourselves as the leading art college in northern New England and a key player in art education in the nation.

To educate, engage and empower through the arts.

To be a leader in arts education, recognized for our ability to use the arts to foster positive change in the world and enable individuals to realize their full creative potential.

We are educators.
As mentors and teachers, our job is to challenge and support our students. To achieve this, we focus our education on aesthetic and technical skills, historical and contemporary analysis, experimentation, collaboration, and free inquiry. 

We are students.
Each member of our community is a student. We learn from each other and value each other’s contributions. 

We are practitioners.
While our primary focus is teaching, we are also practicing creative professionals who bring current ideas to those we educate. To broaden the student experience, we incorporate local and global perspectives. 

We are advocates.
We believe art is relevant and essential to our culture; therefore, we promote education, presentation, and civic engagement through affordable programs and curricula.

We are creative citizens.
Successful citizenship begins with integrity, inquiry, empathy, responsibility, honesty, accountability, and the celebration of diversity, which ultimately shapes our communities and cultural landscape for the betterment of the world.

We are a community.
Our organization is comprised of a diverse group of people who see inclusion as a priority. Our success relies on cooperation, collaboration and respect for one another.


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