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Parsons School of Design

Parsons School of Design

Parsons School of Design, known colloquially as Parsons, is a private art and design college located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan in New York City. It is one of the five colleges of The New School.

The school was founded in 1896 by William Merritt Chase in search of individualistic artistic expression. It was the first of its kind in the country to offer programs in fashion design, advertising, interior design, and graphic design. The school offers numerous undergraduate and graduate programs, ranging from architectural design, curatorial studies, to textiles and design and urban ecologies.

In addition, Parsons is known for its alumni, which consist of numerous famous fashion designers, photographers, designers, illustrators, and artists alike that have made large contributions to their respective industries. The college is also a member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design.

Parsons School of Design
Former names
Chase School (1896–1898)
New York School of Art (1898–1909)
New York School of Fine And Applied Art (1909–1936)
TypePrivate art and design school
Parent institution
The New School
DeanRachel Schreiber
Academic staff
New York City
United States

40°44′07″N 73°59′39″W [30]
ColorsParsons Red
Websitewww.newschool.edu/parsons/ [31]


Portrait of William Merritt Chase from 1900

Portrait of William Merritt Chase from 1900

First established as The Chase School, the institution was founded in 1896 by the American impressionist painter William Merritt Chase (1849–1916). Chase led a small group of Progressives who seceded from the Art Students League of New York in search of a more free, more dramatic, and more individual expression of art.[1] The Chase School changed its name in 1898 to The New York School of Art.

In 1904, Frank Alvah Parsons joined artist Robert Henri as a teacher at the school. In the same approximate time frame, Parsons studied for two years with the vanguard artist and educator, Arthur Wesley Dow at Columbia University graduating in 1905 with a degree in fine arts.[2] A few years later, he became president of The New York School of Art. 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 vision was borne out in a series of firsts for the school, establishing the first program in fashion design, interior design, advertising, and graphic design in the United States.[3] In 1909, the school was renamed The New York School of Fine and Applied Art to reflect these offerings. Parsons became the sole director in 1911, a position which he maintained to his death in 1930. William M. Odom, who established the school's Paris ateliers in 1921, succeeded Parsons as president. In honor of Parsons, who was important in steering the school's development and in shaping visual-arts education through his theories about linking art and industry throughout the world, the institution became the Parsons School of Design in 1936.[3]

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."[3]

In 1970, the school became a division of the New School for Social Research, which later evolved into The New School. The campus moved from Sutton Place to Greenwich Village in 1972.[3] The merger with a vigorous, fully accredited university was a source of new funding and energy, which expanded the focus of a Parsons education.

In 2005, when the parent institution was renamed The New School, the school underwent a rebranding and was renamed Parsons The New School for Design.[3] In 2015, it dropped "The New School" from its formal title and has since been referred to as The New School's Parsons School of Design.


Like most universities in New York City, Parsons' campus is spread among scattered buildings, but the main building is located at 13th Street and 5th Avenue. Many other facilities are in buildings shared by other colleges in The New School but the facilities below are mainly exclusive to Parsons. Parsons also has a campus abroad located in Paris’s First Arrondissement, known as Parsons Paris.

University Center

The New School University Center at 14th Street and Fifth Avenue, a LEED Gold building completed in 2014

The New School University Center at 14th Street and Fifth Avenue, a LEED Gold building completed in 2014

The New School opened the 16-story The New School University Center ("UC") at 65 5th Avenue in January 2014.

While the 65 Fifth Avenue plans were initially controversial among students and Village residents (spurring in 2009 a major student occupation was held at The New School's previous building on that site), plans for the University Center were adjusted in response to community concerns and have since been well received. In a review of the University Center's final design, The New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff called the building "a celebration of the cosmopolitan city".

The tower, which was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's Roger Duffy, is the biggest capital project the university has ever undertaken. The building added classrooms, new residences, computer labs, event facilities, and a cafeteria to the downtown New York City campus in addition to a two-story library and lecture halls. While the UC serves as a central hub for all university students, the majority of its classrooms and workspaces are used for Parsons programs.

The Sheila Johnson Design Center

2 West 13th Street/66 Fifth Avenue is most commonly known as the Sheila Johnson Design Center. The main Parsons campus is located at 2 West 13th Street in Greenwich Village in the borough of Manhattan.[4] The renovation of the existing structure's first and mezzanine levels was made possible in part by a $7 million gift from New School Trustee and Parsons Board of Governors Chair Sheila Johnson. The "Urban Quad" (as the school calls it) was designed by Lyn Rice Architects and encompasses a total area of 32,800 square feet (3,050 m2). In addition to classrooms, the building includes the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery and Auditorium, and the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries.[5] The renovated ground floor also provides a new home for the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Archives, a collection of drawings, photographs, letters, and objects documenting 20th-century design.

The building hosts the Adam and Sophie Gimbel Design Library, a resource collection supporting art, architecture and design degree programs offered by the Parsons School of Design. The collection consists of approximately 45,000 book volumes, 350 periodical titles (200 current), 70,000 slides and 45,000 picture files. Special collections holdings number over 4,000, including many rare and valuable items.[6]

The building's renovation won the 2009 National AIA Honor Award, the 2009 MASNYC Masterworks Award, the 2009 AIANY Merit Award, the 2008 AIA New York State Award of Excellence, the 2008 American Institute of Architects NY/Boston Society of Architects Biennial Honor Award for Educational Facility Design, the 2008 SARA/NY Design Award of Excellence, and the 2007 AIANY Merit Award for Projects.[7]

On Monday, April 2, 2018, the 2 West 13th Street building was affected by an electrical fire, which erupted in the basement at around 10:40 AM. The building was quickly and safely evacuated thanks to the teamwork of all students, faculty, and staff, and the building remained closed for the remainder of the Spring 2018 semester. The 375 courses usually located within the building were relocated to other buildings in the university. The cause of the fire is water which leaked through the basement ceiling onto electrical switchgear, causing circuit breakers to explode. [8]

Parsons East Building

The Parsons East Building, located at 25 East 13th Street building is home to the School of Constructed Environments, which houses the Interior Design, Lighting Design, and Architecture departments of the college. The Fine Arts department is also located in this building. The facilities included in the building are the digital and traditional fabrication shops, the Light Lab, multiple Computing Labs, the Angelo Donghia Materials Center, the Healthy Materials Library, and The Design Workshop.[9]

Albert and Vera List Academic Center

The 16th Street building, known as the Vera List Center, features dedicated floors to design studies and development. Both the 6th and 12th floors are dedicated to the Design & Technology Bachelor and Master programs. The building also features a library.


Parsons offers twenty-five different programs each housed in one of five divisions:[10]

  • School of Art and Design History and Theory – Dean Rhonda Garelick

  • School of Art, Media, and Technology – Dean Anne Gaines

  • School of Constructed Environments – Dean Robert Kirkbride

  • School of Design Strategies: Cities, Services, Ecosystems – Dean Jane Pirone

  • School of Fashion – Dean Burak Cakmak

Admission and student demographics

Demographics of student body[[CITE|11|http://collegesearch.collegeboard.com/search/CollegeDetail.jsp?collegeId=4135]]
1st Year StudentsU.S. Census
African American/Non-Hispanic4%12.4%
Asian American/Pacific Islander18%4.3%
Hispanic American9%14.7%
American Indian/Alaskan Native<1%0.8%
International students31%N/A

Parsons has an enrollment of approximately 3,800 undergraduate students and 400 graduate students. The student body is 77% women and 23% men, with most of the constituents being full-time students.[12] About one third of the college is made up of international students hailing from 68 different countries. The largest international groups come from Asia, followed by Europe.[13]

There are 127 full-time faculty members and 1,056 part-time faculty members, many of whom are successful working artists and designers in New York City. The student:faculty ratio is 9:1.[14]

Notable faculty members include Frank Lloyd Wright, Piet Mondrian, Tim Gunn, Soon Yu among others.

Expansion and affiliations

In 1920, Parsons School of Design was the first art and design school in America to found a campus abroad.[13]

Director of the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, Frank Alvah Parsons, first began a program in Paris in 1921. In 1941, it was named for him.[15] In 1970, the school merged with the New School for Social Research. Subsequently, the name Parsons was licensed to the Paris College of Art but this arrangement ceased in 2010.[15]

Parsons Paris

In November 2012, The New School President David E. Van Zandt announced that Parsons School of Design would be opening a new academic center, to be called Parsons Paris, in Paris in the autumn 2013.[16] Located in Paris’s First Arrondissement, Parsons Paris incorporates a faculty of French and European design educators as well as visiting professors from around the world. The school offers a variety of bachelor's and master's degrees in design, fashion, curatorial studies and business. All classes are taught in English.[15]

Parsons Paris is part of a global initiative by Parsons that highlights creative literacy in all aspects of society.

Notable alumni

Parsons has educated some of the most respected designers in the fashion industry including Donna Karan, Scott Salvator, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, Tom Ford, Anna Sui, Jason Wu, Narciso Rodriguez, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, Isaac Mizrahi, Samantha Sleeper, Derek Lam, Prabal Gurung, Heron Preston, Jenna Lyons, Eisha Chopra and Jasper Conran.

In addition to fashion designers, Parsons is also known for being the alma mater to artists Jasper Johns, Paul Rand, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Norman Rockwell, Duane Michals, Ai Weiwei, Joel Schumacher, Julie Umerle, Danielle Mastrion and Jacqueline Humphries among others. The late, famed interior decorator Mario Buatta also attended the school.

Due to its location and prestige, the school has been the choice of notable students such as Bella Hadid, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Sailor Brinkley Cook (daughter of Christie Brinkley), among others.

Student life

The Student Development and Activities is home to over 25 recognized student organizations throughout The New School that serves Parsons as well as all the other five schools that are under the umbrella of The New School.[17]


  • re:D is the magazine for Parsons alumni and the wider Parsons community, published by the New School Alumni Association.[18]

  • Scapes is the annual journal of the School of Constructed Environments.

  • The Journal of Design Strategies explores and documents collaborative work on the borders of management and design. The journal welcomes contributions that address the importance of design and design-based education to business strategy and planning and that speak to the need for sustainable approaches to new value creation. In each issue, they highlight people, projects, approaches, and events that together characterize an important aspect of the collaboration between design and business.[19]

  • The Parsons Journal for Information Mapping (PJIM) is published quarterly by the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping and focuses on both the theoretical and practical aspects of information visualization. With every issue, the Journal aims to present novel ideas and approaches that advance the field of Knowledge Visualization through visual, engineering, and cognitive methods.[20]

  • BIAS: Journal of Dress Practice published by the MA Fashion Studies Dress Practice Collective started in the spring of 2013 and aims to join elements of "visual culture, fashion theory, design studies and personal practice through a variety of media."[21]

  • The Fashion Studies Journal ' is a monthly peer-reviewed academic journal for fashion scholarship and criticism. It was established in 2012 as a platform for graduate-level writing[22]


WNSR is a student-run, faculty-advised online-only university radio station based at The New School. Programming is delivered in the form of streamable mp3s and, in the near future, subscribable podcasts. It is a station for all divisions of The New School.[23]


Fusion Fashion Show

Fusion, an established event since 2000, brings together Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design, to engage in a school vs school fashion show competition. All contestants are either freshman or sophomore students and the models are student volunteers. The judges pick a "best designer" from each school and a "best overall school". The best designers each receive a cash scholarship.[24]

Parsons Fashion Benefit

Parsons’ annual Benefit and Fashion Show is a black tie gala that raises funds for scholarships and academic programs at The New School. The event is a collaboration with The New School's College of Performing Arts. A highlight of the event is a runway show featuring the top thesis collections of Parsons’ graduating BFA Fashion Design students, including its Designers of the Year. The Designer of the Year Award has launched the careers of such famous alumni as Marc Jacobs, and Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler.[25] Industry leaders are honored every year, with past honorees including Rihanna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Donna Karan, Arianna Huffington, among others. 2018's 70th Annual Benefit honored Solange Knowles, Marco Bizzarri (President and CEO of Gucci), and José Neves (Founder and CEO of Farfetch)[26]. The show has been a tradition of the school for seventy years.[27]

See also

  • Education in New York City

  • The New York Foundation

  • The New York Intellectuals

  • Parsons table

  • Project Pericles


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