The renowned American Impressionist William Merritt Chase founded the school in 1896. It was a rebellious gesture: Chase led a small group of Progressives who seceded from the Art Students League of New York in search of more individualistic expression.
In 1904, arts educator Frank Alvah Parsons joined the school. Six years later, he became its sole director.
In 1970, Parsons joined The New School (then called The New School for Social Research), a renowned institution of progressive thinking.