Previously known as the Addis Ababa Art School, this school was founded in 1958 and was the first formal art school in Ethiopia. It was founded by the artist Alle Felegeselam Hiruy.

It was initially attended predominantly by traditional church painters, and the taught subjects were limited to drawing, painting, sculpture, commercial art and art history.

In 1975 the school began requiring students to have completed the tenth grade and to pass an art aptitude test. It became affiliated with AAU in 1988, after which point it was able to grant Bachelors and Masters Degrees. In 2012, the college curriculum was revised. In 2015, the college added Masters Programs in Fine Arts and Film Production