According to a word-of-mouth history passed down over the years, the Department was created after actor Vincent Price asked to see the art department while on a tour of MSU’s campus in 1967. When he was told the department did not exist he responded, “Then how can you call this a real university?”
In 1968, Arthur Leonard Farley was hired to create a fine arts program for MSU. Farley, a well-respected artist himself, is known for creating one of Mississippi State’s best-known sculptures of a bronze Bulldog installed in 1970 on the north side of the Colvard Student Union. The department’s official founding year is 1969, and MSU’s first Bachelor of Art degrees in Fine Arts were awarded in the early 1970s.
Farley served for 13 years until 1982, when Michael A. Dorsey succeeded him as head of the department. Past department heads include Professors Brent Funderburk, Kay DeMarsche, Lydia Thompson, interim-head Jamie Burwell Mixon, Dr. Angi Elsea Bourgeois, and interim-head Jeffrey Haupt.The current head is Critz Campbell, who oversees more than 200 students seeking Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with concentrations in fine art, graphic design, and photography.
Since its formation in 1968, the Department of Art has grown from a one room office on the fourth floor of Lee Hall to classrooms, galleries, studios, and office spaces found in eight buildings across MSU’s campus.
The Department celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018.