The 5 Best Art Schools in Calgary

Best Art Schools in Calgary

By Claire Lee

Thinking of finally following your passion for the arts? Sounds like it’s time to find an art school!

Any place that imparts the knowledge and techniques of art—whether a university or an independent art studio—can be considered an art school. Ahead, we round up the best art schools in Calgary to help hone your skills.

How Much Does Art School in Calgary Cost?

Are you taking up art classes formally at a university, or on a weekly basis at a neighborhood studio? The answer to this question will easily have the biggest effect on the cost of your schooling.

If you’re heading to a university, you can expect a significant difference between public and private costs. The type of program you choose—whether ceramics, digital art, or painting, among others—will also affect fees.

In our list below, we pinpoint the Visual College of Art and Design’s Calgary campus and the Alberta University of the Arts as some of the best art schools in Calgary. Here’s an overview of their tuition, exclusive of application, confirmation and material costs.

Art SchoolSchool TypePrice Range
Alberta University of the Arts (Undergraduate)Public university$15,625.00
Alberta University of the Arts (Graduate)Public university$31,250.00
Visual College of Art and DesignFor-profit career college$27,396.25 to $46,171.25

What about independent studios, then?

Several art studios in Calgary offer weekly classes spanning anywhere between one and a half to three hours. Check out the price ranges for sessions from Neon Milkshake, Colour On Fire and Atelier Artista below.

Art SchoolDurationNumber of SessionsPrice Range
Neon Milkshake3 hours, weekly4$110 to $125
Colour On Fire1.5 hours, weekly6$150
Atelier Artista3 hours, weekly6$250 to $350

The Best Art Schools in Calgary

Now that you’re aware of the general price range of art lessons in the city, let’s get on to the list. Read on for our curated selection of the best art schools in Calgary!

1.   Alberta University of the Arts

Alberta University of the Arts' Homepage
PRODUCTSCeramics, Critical and Creative Studies, Drawing, Fibre, Glass, Jewellery and Metals, Media Arts, Painting, Photography, Print Media
WEBSITEhttps://www.auarts.ca/
ADDRESS1407 – 14 Ave. NW, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4R3
CONTACT DETAILS403 284 7600
[email protected]

If you’re looking for an institution specifically designated to teach arts, craft and design, Alberta University of the Arts (AUARTS) is the only one in the province.

Founded in 1926, this public university is easily one of the top art schools in Calgary. Here’s why.

Among all the schools in this list, AUARTS has the most extensive offering of courses. They cater to a diverse range of faculties, from glass and fibre to media arts and photography.

All of these programs are available for undergraduates (Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Design), while the Ceramics, Fibre, Glass, Jewellery and Metals courses are also open to post-graduates seeking a master’s degree.

Many art classes, no matter where you take them, are facilitated in small groups. In AUARTS, no more than 15 students can be registered to a single class, giving you a better chance of making meaningful connections with your instructors and classmates.

Despite the small class sizes, the Alberta University of the Arts has 293,000 square feet of studio space for their students. Each course also has designated studio areas to ensure that everyone has ample space and tools to work on their projects.

A stomping ground for aspiring and practicing artists, the school also provides students with room for growth. Among these are exchange or study abroad programs with campuses across North America, Europe and Australia.

With an average tuition of $15,625 and $31,250 for undergraduates and graduates, respectively, AUARTS’ fees are smaller than those of private universities. However, these fees do not yet include equipment, studio share and materials costs.

Pros

  • Offers both graduate and undergraduate programs
  • Wide range of courses
  • Offers exchange programs and personal development workshops
  • Large studio spaces for every course
  • Small class size

Cons

  • Complaints of fees folded into student facilities (i.e. library usage)
  • Requires liberal studies courses to be added to students’ schedules to meet course load minimum

Customer Reviews

Considering giving Alberta University of the Arts a shot? Start by reading these reviews.

“I have been to 3 other universities in my life; AUArts is the friendliest and most welcoming institute I have ever attended. As a purpose-built art school, the studios and tech labs are top-notch.  The instructors are all practicing artists or designers. The school offers a fine arts stream and a design stream.  If you are thinking of a career in art or design I recommend you have a serious look at AUARTS.” —Ed McGowan

“Offers really unique courses compared to other post-secondary institutions. Professors are all very nice, and [the] campus is fun to be on.” —Cameron Robertson

2.   Visual College of Art and Design

Visual College of Art and Design's Homepage
PRODUCTSFashion Design, Marketing and Merchandising for Fashion, Fashion Design – Specialization in Marketing, Architecture Design & Technology, Interior Design, Interior Design with Co-op, 3D Modeling Animation Art & Design, Visual Effects Art & Design, Game Development & Design, Graphic Design
WEBSITEhttps://www.vcad.ca/
ADDRESS100-1035 7th Avenue, SW, Calgary, Alberta T2P 0K4
CONTACT DETAILS1 800 290 2414
Live chat

Founded in 2009, the Visual College of Art and Design (VCAD) is a relatively new art school in Canada. The school is originally located in Vancouver, but officially opened a Calgary campus in May 2019.

VCAD Calgary has all the benefits of a new campus—think modern design, state-of-the-art equipment and fully decked-out labs and studios for students of all courses.

 Its downtown location is ideal for dormers and commuters alike, as it’s conveniently close to key bus routes and just a stone’s throw from the CTrain.

While VCAD’s offerings might not be as diverse as AUARTS’, they’ve got a good mix of digital and tactile courses. All of these, from fashion to graphic design, dive into the fundamentals of business, management and portfolio creation—all of which are essential skills for anyone entering the workforce.

By the looks of it, this well-rounded approach is paying off.

VCAD is home to a long list of successful alumni, some of whom collaborate with global brands like Tom Ford and Nike. The portfolios of these graduates are exhibited on VCAD’s website for potential clients to see, and current students to draw inspiration from.

All things considered, VCAD is setting itself apart as one of the best art schools in Calgary. However, since it is a private institution, the tuition is around twice that of a public school.

Pros

  • Convenient downtown location
  • New and modern campus
  • Long list of successful alumni despite being a newer institution
  • Focuses on the business and management aspects of art
  • Imparts the fundamentals of portfolio creation

Cons

  • Only offers undergraduate programs
  • Needs improvement in organization and managing lines of communication

Customer Reviews

Check out what students—both old and new—have to say about the Visual College of Art and Design.

“I am having a great time being in a school that really focuses on giving you the tools to succeed in the field that you choose. The teachers are industry experts [who] give great insight. It’s also great to be in class with people from different walks of life but all have the same mind set and interests as you. It makes for a fun environment.” —Sebas O.

“Great environment to learn in and the teachers are amazing at what they do. Classes are not packed with students, which makes it perfect for students to ask teachers for help if necessary.” —Tallah Ejaz

3.   Neon Milkshake Art Studio

Neon Milkshake Art Studio's Homepage
PRODUCTSAdult drawing, adult painting, youth art classes, art workshops, birthday party services
WEBSITEhttps://neonmilkshake.com/
ADDRESS#3, 7640 Fairmount Dr SE Calgary, Alberta, T2H 0X9
CONTACT DETAILS403 200 5760
[email protected]
Contact form
OPERATING HOURSMonday, 12:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Tuesday, 10:30 AM to 3:30 PM, 5:30 to 8:30 PM
Wednesday, 12:30 PM to 5:15 PM, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Thursday, 9:30 AM to 8:30 PM
Friday, open for events
Saturday, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Sunday, 9:45 AM to 4:45 PM, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Artist Danielle Bartlette established Neon Milkshake Art Studio in 2016, but has been teaching around the world since 2007. She identifies as a post-modern artist with expertise in painting, collage, typography, signage and more.

Together with Danielle, Neon Milkshake has a total of six seasoned instructors who teach drawing and painting to children, teens and adults. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they also offered art camps, workshops and kiddie party services upon request.

Unlike traditional art classes, painting lessons at Neon Milkshake incorporate the fundamentals of mixed media. This gives students a little more room for creative exploration.

There’s no need to feel intimidated if you’ve never picked up a paintbrush before, since Neon Milkshake classes are open to beginners and intermediate artists alike. With intimate class sizes, instructors are able to give students the guidance they need to express themselves and conquer a blank canvas.

Furthermore, the artists who started their journey with Neon Milkshake credit the warm and welcoming environment at the studio for helping them fall in love with their craft. Danielle and her team have carved out a supportive community wherein artists uplift one another.

Pros

  • Open all week ‘round
  • Offers classes for kids, teens and adults
  • Open to beginners and intermediate artists
  • Strong sense of community among studio-goers

Cons

  • Not all classes are available yet, due to the pandemic
  • Birthday party services are currently unavailable

Customer Reviews

Here’s what the artists who frequent Neon Milkshake Studio have to say about the place!

“I have been going to Neon Milkshake Studio for art classes and workshops for several years. Danielle is a wonderful teacher and sets a tone of relaxed creativity in the studio. She has such a comfortable manner with her students, both young and mature, that it is easy to feel right at home. It is such a welcoming environment. I have created a lot of beautiful art under her guidance. Both beginners and experienced artists, as well as hobbyist and craftsy folks will enjoy her classes.” —Helen Newsome

“Danielle Bartlette is a great mentor. I have a saying, “Danielle makes my art look great, but I take the credit.” When a piece is not working, Danielle knows just what it needs!” —Tracy Knibbs

4.   Colour on Fire Art Studio & School

Colour on Fire Art Studio & School's Homepage
PRODUCTSGlass painting, glass fusion, acrylic painting, art education classes, children’s art classes, birthday party services, workshops, online classes
WEBSITEhttps://www.colouronfireartstudio.com/
ADDRESS277 Strathcona Dr SW, Calgary, Alberta, T3H 2A4
CONTACT DETAILS+1 (403) 542 0178
OPERATING HOURSMonday to Sunday, 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Inclusivity is key over at Colour on Fire Art Studio & School. They offer lessons for everyone—from children and teens to adults and seniors, no matter their skill level.

Their lessons also cover a wide range of topics and faculties.

Unlike the other studios on this list, Colour on Fire offers art education classes for those who are looking to learn more about the basics and history of the art world. In addition to this, they also offer acrylic painting, glass painting and glass fusion classes.

Furthering their spirit of inclusivity, the way they deliver classes is so flexible that it’s pretty impressive.

In addition to standard in-studio classes, they can conduct sessions at schools, birthday parties, community centres, senior centres—the list goes on. They also offer online classes, which are facilitated via Zoom video call.

Those who are looking for a new hobby may want to take a look at their Art-to-Go activity kits. These pottery and painting kits range from $28 to $32, and can be delivered straight to your doorstep.

Because their classes are so customizable (and don’t break the bank, at that), we pinpoint Colour on Fire as the most beginner-friendly studio on this list. The flexible program delivery also makes this studio a great match for casual artists on a tight schedule.

Pros

  • Flexible program delivery (face-to-face or via Zoom)
  • Offers Art-to-Go pottery and painting kits
  • Open to all ages and skill levels

Cons

  • A better match for kids or beginners, versus advanced artists
  • Complaints of last-minute changes for event services

Customer Reviews

Looking to book a session at Colour on Fire? Here’s what previous customers have to say!

“My wife and I have been going to adult classes on Tuesday mornings at Colour on Fire for over a year. We really look forward to them. Val, warm and friendly, is always on hand for advice or corrective action.” —David Cornberg

“Colour on Fire is fantastic and my kids have been going there for years. They always enjoy their time there and they have learnt many techniques including watercolour, acrylic, ink and chalk and oil pastels. Ms. Val is great and my kids love her. I would highly recommend this place.” —Alexandra Sell

5.   Atelier Artista

Atelier Artista's Homepage
PRODUCTSStructure and rendering, investigating the figure, painting the figure, costumed figure painting classes, drop-in classes
WEBSITEhttps://atelierartista.com
ADDRESS #410 cSPACE King Edward 1721 – 29 Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta, T2T 6T7
CONTACT DETAILS[email protected]
Contact form

Atelier Artista’s class offerings are a little different from the other art studios on this list. They still offer drawing and painting classes, yes—but here, you can expect a full-fledged discussion of structure and technique.

Instead of simply labelling their classes as “drawing” or “painting,” their courses tackle specific topics like understanding the human figure, bare versus clothed figures, and more.

While their classes are primarily offered in packages of six, they also allow drop-in classes for those who want to avail of single passes.

The atelier (which means an artist’s workshop or studio) is located inside King Edward School, which was recently renovated into a creative hub. There is plenty of space to work, as well as an abundance of regularly sanitized tools for all students to use.

Speaking of tools, Atelier Artista also has an art store within their studio. This is convenient for students who forget materials at home, or happen to run low on paint mid-session.

The space is also innovatively designed. Low-impact, colour-balanced LED lighting makes the place energy efficient, while their filtration and circulation systems keep the air clean, providing peace of mind for those concerned about the virus.

Despite it being open to all skill levels, we recommend going for Atelier Artista’s classes when you’ve developed a solid grasp of the foundations of drawing or painting. With classes ranging from $250 to $350 for six sessions, you’d get a better bang for your buck if you already have the basic skills down pat.

Pros

  • In-depth, technique-focused classes
  • Offers drop-in and packaged sessions
  • Studio space is energy efficient and fitted with air filtration systems

Cons

  • Higher price per session makes it a better fit for intermediate to advanced artists

Customer Reviews

Find out more about what makes Atelier Artista one of the best art schools in Calgary. Check out these reviews!

“Hands down the best drawing school in the city! Bunny’s enthusiasm is infectious, and each lesson is interesting, well thought out, and fun. This is serious art with an attitude.” —Christopher Mackie

“Best art lessons I’ve received were from Brian “Bunny” Batista. The information I came away with really stuck, so I can’t wait to go back for more! I also love the chill atmosphere of the Atelier. Comes highly recommended.”—Gail Laws

Factors to Consider When Selecting an Art School

Looking to sign up for an art school in Calgary? Here are points for consideration that may help you narrow down your search.

Craft

Art is a broad term and can refer to anything from performance to pottery to painting. The first step, then, is to look through course offerings to find a school that provides lessons for your particular craft.

Frequency

Determine whether you’ll be pursuing art lessons on a full-time or part-time basis. Universities typically offer one- to two-year full-time programs, while independent studios offer one-off sessions or weekly lessons over the span of a month or so.

Instructor’s Background

Once you’ve considered the aforementioned factors, explore your potential instructor’s track record. It would be a good idea to see if their experience aligns with your vision for your own art career.

For instance, if you’re looking to become a portrait artist, check if your teacher has experience practicing in the same field.

If you’re pursuing a more commercial path—say, as a graphic artist or photographer—having a teacher with an established background in the same field can help you expand your network down the line.

Frequently Asked Questions about Art Schools in Calgary


That concludes our list of the best art schools in Calgary! Whether you’re looking to take up art classes formally at a university or in your own free time, we hope that this list brings you closer to the ideal school for you.

Need a little inspiration for your next artwork? Make sure you read through our list of the best art galleries in Calgary!

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