The Cleveland Institute of Art was founded in 1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women. The school began very small, with only one student and one teacher, but it quickly grew. The school, despite its name, did a few male students and in 1892, the school was renamed the Cleveland School of Art. It became independent after plans for a merger with Western Reserve University fell through. In 1904 a new home for the school was built on Juniper and Magnolia Drives in University Circle. The school remained here until 1956, when it opened a larger facility nearby on East Boulevard. In 1948, the school took on its current name: the Cleveland Institute of Art. The school also purchased a former Ford assembly plant on Euclid Avenue in 1981, converting it into the McCullough Center For Visual Arts.
The Cleveland School of Art was also involved in the community of Cleveland. In 1917 the school began summer and weekend classes for adults and children. These classes continue today. History also affected the school, during the Great Depression the school took part in the WPA Federal Arts Project and during World War II mapmaking and medical drawing were added as courses. The school also added more academic courses overtime, although the original purpose of the school was to teach practical skills over theoretical academic ones.
The Ford Drive building houses the Reinberger Galleries that offer free art exhibits and lectures that change throughout the year. The Cleveland Institute of Art continues to be one of the country's leading art schools.