Belmont University Announces Plans to Merge with Watkins College of Art

Agreement brings Watkins College of Art to Belmont University, uniting leading arts institutions in Nashville

Watkins College of Art

Belmont University and Watkins College of Art announced today their intent to merge, with Watkins College of Art beginning a transition to Belmont’s campus following the completion of this academic year. The governing boards for both Belmont and Watkins unanimously approved the plan. Pending approval of SACSCOC, the accrediting body for both institutions, the transition for Watkins’s programs and students to their new home at Belmont University will occur with the Fall 2020 semester.

Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “For well over a century, Watkins has fostered the talents and honed the crafts of thousands of phenomenal artists. Partnering this legacy with Belmont’s thriving creative community in the arts, music, film, and design represents a natural fit and brings incredible synergy to benefit all students. This merger will enable us to accelerate and elevate art education in the Southeast and beyond.”

Belmont University

The agreement formally joins two institutions that already share a strong academic partnership as Watkins and Belmont students have previously been able to take select courses at both institutions. Moreover, the addition of Watkins College of Art follows on the heels of Belmont’s 2018 merger with the then Franklin-based O’More College of Design, which strengthened Belmont’s fine arts portfolio while adding new programs in fashion and interior design. The addition of Watkins further fortifies Belmont as the center for art and design in the region.

“This is an historic day for Watkins as we join Belmont University,” said Dr. J. Kline, president of Watkins College of Art. “This agreement secures the legacy and mission of Watkins for generations to come. Our two universities share many of the same ideals, including a strong commitment to our students to prepare and inspire them to become meaningful change agents in our culture and across the globe. Belmont’s reputation as a growing world-class institution is extraordinary, and we are delighted to be able to add Watkins’s renowned arts programs to significantly broaden academic and career opportunities for our shared student bodies.”

With the agreement, Belmont will house all of Watkins’s current undergraduate academic programs. Students currently majoring in fine arts, graphic design, illustration, photography, and art will join Belmont’s fine arts programs in the newly created Watkins College of Art, while Watkins’s interior design students will join peers in the O’More College of Architecture and Design. Watkins’s film major will merge with Belmont’s renowned motion pictures program in the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business.

The property where Watkins College of Art currently sits will be sold with proceeds being used to create an endowment to support scholarships for Watkins students.

The creative climates fostered at both schools, along with shared missions focused on transformative and service-minded education, create a formidable union. In addition to the financial stability, resources, and expanded reach Belmont offers, the partnership provides Watkins students with an array of opportunities not currently available, such as study abroad possibilities, dedicated career development staff, and increased options for general education courses.

About Watkins College of Art
Founded in 1885 and based in Nashville, Tennessee, Watkins College of Art is a regionally and nationally accredited nonprofit independent college of the visual arts offering bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degrees in film, fine art, graphic design, illustration, interior design, and photography, as well as a BA in art. Watkins’s graduate programs include two MFA degrees—in film and in visual arts. It is also a committed community partner, offering classes in a broad range of subjects for adults, teachers, and children of all ages through its Community Education programs. Watkins is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, the 39 leading art and design schools in the United States and Canada. For more information, visit

About Belmont University
Belmont University—home of the October 22, 2020 Presidential Debate, the third and final in the election season—is made up of nearly 8,500 students who come from every state and more than 36 countries. Nationally ranked and consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report for its innovation and commitment to teaching, Belmont brings together the best of liberal arts and professional education in a Christian community of learning and service. The University’s purpose is to help students explore their passions and develop their talents to meet the world’s needs. With more than 95 areas of undergraduate study, more than 25 master’s programs and five doctoral degrees, there is no limit to the ways Belmont University can expand an individual’s horizon. For more information, visit