It was founded in 1805 and is the first and oldest art museum and art school in the United States.
The academy's museum is internationally known for its collections of 19th- and 20th-century American paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Its archives house important materials for the study of American art history, museums, and art training.
The Academy was well known for its longstanding 4-year Certificate Program. Since 1929, qualified students were able to apply for and receive a coordinated Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Another BFA degree program is offered exclusively in-house (a recent addition) its Master of Fine Arts program, a Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Graduate Studies, and extensive continuing education offerings, as well as programs for children and families.
In 2005, the Academy received the National Medal of Arts recognizing it as a leader in fine arts education.