The Art Institute of Chicago was founded in 1879, to serve as both an art school and a museum. The school was first located on the corner of State and Monroe Streets, then relocated to its present site of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street in 1893. The museum portion of the building was home to a collection of plaster casts, this was to demonstrate the schools vision of promoting all forms of art and combine it with education. Today the museum holds some 5,000 years of art from around the world representing the human expression in art. The school continues to enjoy its reputation of being one of the best art schools in the country.
The Art Institute was founded 1879, and named "The Chicago Academy of Fine Arts''. When the school needed room for expansion and growth, the name was changed. The city gave the institute the land on which it is now currently located. The building was designed by the Boston firm of Sheply, Rutan and Coolidge, and it officially reopened in 1893.
Mrs. Henry Field, gifted the institution with its first collection of French paintings. The Fullerton Auditorium was added in 1898 and was followed by the Ryerson Library in 1901. By purchasing items from the Armory Show in1913, which the school hosted, the institute was able to secure a large collection of modern art. There were memorials of two soldiers who were killed in World War I, the George Alexander McKinlock, Jr. Memorial Park in 1924, and the Kenneth Sawyer Goodman Theater in 1925.
It was also during this time that the school received generous bequeaths and donations to expand their museums art collection. The holdings of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings were significantly enhanced in 1924, by a bequeath from Bertha Honore Palmer. In 1925, the Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection was added. Perhaps the single most comprehensive donation in its history came from Martin A. Ryerson, whose collection contained American and European paintings dating back to the 15th century, textiles, Asian artwork and various prints and drawings.
During the 1950's expansion of the museum included, the addition of the B.F. Ferguson Memorial Building. While the 1970's showed a sharp increase in students and tourists who visited the museum. A dramatic increase in the contemporary art collection led the institute to expand and build the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Building in 1988. There were also various other improvements made to the classrooms and museums throughout the past 20 years. Today the Art Institute continues to be one of Americas most prestigious art schools.