Up to the 1940s, formal art training was virtually non-existent in Jamaica. There
were some private tutors, but no institutions for training in the fine arts. The
situation changed when Edna Manley introduced adult evening classes at the Institute
of Jamaica¹s Junior Centre around 1940. These classes were extremely popular and
within ten years (September 1950), they led to the establishment of the first formal
art school in the English Speaking Caribbean, the ³Jamaica School of Art and Crafts.²
On 9 October 1950 the School opened its doors at the DaCosta Institute at 1 Central Avenue, Kingston Gardens. At least 64 students, paying fees of one and two pounds a term, were enrolled for the first year. By 1951, in response to increasing student numbers the School purchased additional premises on 11 North Street and remained at these two locations for the next two decades.
The establishment of a four-year Diploma curriculum, designed by Barrington Watson, celebrated the School¹s contribution to the teaching of Art in a newly independent Jamaica in 1962. At the beginning of the 1964-1965 academic year there were 86 full-time and 84 part-time students.
In early 1967 the name of the school was changed to The Jamaica School of Art. Placing a greater emphasis on its fine art status and tuition.
Another watershed came in 1976 when the Jamaica School of Art was incorporated into the Cultural Training Centre and moved to its new facilities at 1 Arthur Wint Drive. The C.T.C. consisted of the Schools of Art, Music, Dance, and Drama. All were divisions of the Institute of Jamaica under the Ministry of Culture. This move to consolidate training in the arts was very much in keeping with the emphasis placed on cultural development by the government of the day.
In 1987, the artist Edna Manley died and in recognition of her pioneering work the Jamaica School of Art changed its name once again to the Edna Manley School for the Visual Arts. 1995 marked another shift in status when the C.T.C. was designated a College and brought under the tertiary unit in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, bringing to a close, the School of Visual Arts¹ more than forty year relationship with the Institute of Jamaica.
In 1996 the art school again changed its name to the School of Visual Arts taking its place alongside with the Performing Art schools within the larger cultural training complex.
In September 2004 the School of Visual Arts launched its degree programme. Today, it boasts a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and a Bachelor of Art Education (BAE) in addition to its Diploma programmes and BA degree course offered jointly with the University of the West Indies. Over the past 64 years, the School of Visual of Arts has developed from an informal school that offered evening leisure classes into a respected institution providing academic fine art degrees and diploma programmes.
Edna Manley College: http://emc.edu.jm/history-art.htm