The college was established in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1905. It was the first non-profit college of visual art in the Southeastern United States.
In August 2005, the boards of trustees of the Woodruff Arts Center and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) formally approved the merger of ACA and SCAD. In June 2006, the two institutions combined operations at SCAD's Atlanta location. The merger was widely contested by many ACA students, faculty and members of the Atlanta arts community.
The school also offered programming to the greater Atlanta community through the Georgia Artists Registry, ACA Gallery shows, community education classes for adults, and summer programs in the arts for children and teens.