Francis Cunningham teaching at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, ca. 1979
The Brooklyn Museum Art School (BMAS) was a non-degree-granting professional school that opened at the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, New York in the summer of 1941. Prior to the creation of the BMAS, classes for amateur artists had been offered by the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (BIAS), the Museum's parent organization. BIAS offered hands-on art classes dating back to 1841. The Brooklyn Museum Art School provided instruction for amateur artists as well until January 1985 when it was transferred to the Pratt Institute’s Continuing Education Division.
The Brooklyn Museum Art School title was first used in the 1941-42 annual report from the Brooklyn Museum, remaining separate from the Brooklyn Museum's Education Department, which was directed towards children. During World War II the Brooklyn Museum Art School offered limited classes in painting, photography and drawing. In 1945 the artist Augustus Peck became director of the school and expanded its offerings. As a result of the GI Bill the BMAS had very stable income and funding, allowing many prominent artists to teach or lecture at the school. Artists included Augustus Peck, William Baziotes, Max Beckmann, Ben Shahn, Raphael Soyer, and Reuben Tam. At its peak, the Brooklyn Museum Art School had almost 400 applicants. This number suffered as more institutions began to offer accredited programs in the fine arts during the late 1950s. A Bachelor of Fine Arts program in conjunction with Long Island University was planned to begin in 1959, but never came to fruition due to lack of funding.