A Brief History of Moore

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A Brief History of Moore

By Sharon G. Hoffman

Moore College of Art & Design began its life as The Philadelphia School of Design for Women (PSDW) in 1848.  Founded by Sarah Peter in her Society Hill home, PSDW sought to train women in the art of design in order to provide meaningful opportunities for employment in Philadelphia’s many factories.  In 1853, after breaking off a three-year affiliation with the Franklin Institute, PSDW incorporated.

The School moved to the Edwin Forrest Mansion at Broad and Master Streets in 1880, and remained there until 1959 when it moved to Twentieth Street and The Parkway, in the heart of Philadelphia’s cultural district.  In 1886, Emily Sartain became principal of PSDW and began to modernize the curriculum.  Her niece Harriet Sartain would eventually assume the principal’s role in 1920.  It was under her supervision that The Young People’s Art Workshop (now called Young Artists’ Workshop) began in 1921.  The Workshop continues to be a vibrant program, drawing young women and men from all parts of the Delaware Valley.

The State of Pennsylvania authorized the School to grant Bachelor of Science in Art Education degrees in 1931, making it one of the first independent art schools in the country able to grant a degree of any kind.  The next year PSDW merged with Moore Institute of Art, Science, and Industry and absorbed that name, though it continued to enroll only female students. The year 1941 saw Moore Institute become the first art and design school to be accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities.

The 1940s were to see two other firsts for Moore: Harold R. Rice became its first President in 1946, and in 1948 a continuing studies program was established.  Moore experienced two more name changes over the years, becoming Moore College of Art in 1963 and Moore College of Art & Design in 1989.

After the first Moore Gallery opened in 1968, it was followed in 1983 by the Goldie Paley Gallery which showcases international art, and in 1987 the Levy Gallery for the Arts in Philadelphia opened at Moore, dedicating space to emerging and minority artists working in the area.  In 2009, the College introduced its coeducational Graduate Studies programs.

In a significant milestone for Moore, Dr. Mary-Linda Merriam became Moore’s first woman president in 1991, followed by Barbara Gillette Price in 1993, Happy Craven Fernandez in 1999 and the current president, Cecelia Fitzgibbon in 2012.  Wilson Hall, a lovely new facility, was opened in 2000.

Moore College of Art & Design continues to fulfill Sarah Peter’s vision of empowering women to achieve financial independence by providing a high-quality, career-focused education.  It was the first and is now the only accredited visual arts college for women in the Western hemisphere, and continues to prepare young women for careers in the art and design.