The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent is one of the oldest art schools in Belgium and has been the breeding ground of Flemish cultural and artistic life for much of its history. It started out as a private school for drawing, painting, and architecture at the home of artist Philippe Karel Marissal in 1741, but soon acquired material support of the city council and was recognized by decree and endowed with a Royal title by the Austrian empress Maria-Theresia in 1771. The academy lived through several changes of rule and regime until it became a municipal institute protected by the Belgian state at the time of the country's beginnings in the early 1830s. Only a decade ago, in 1995, the academy merged with the Ghent Institute of Higher Education (Hogeschool Gent), whose thirteen departments together became a University College and a member of the Ghent University Association in 2003. Although still commonly known as the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK), the school is now officially referred to as the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University College Ghent.
The achievements of the Royal Academy have been closely tied in with the work and renown of the artists who taught there and helped to steer the school, at a different pace and with varying degrees of success, into several directions at once. To give but a few examples. Animation filmmaker and Golden Palm winner Raoul Servais founded the KASK animation studios, whose graduates include Paul Demeyer (Goose Girl, Duckman, ...), Tim Crawfurd (Pixar) and Jonas Geirnaert (Flatlife, prize of the jury in Cannes 2004). Photographers as diverse as Magnum member Carl De Keyzer and artist Dirk Braeckman are part of what the Dutch magazine FOTO has called "the magic of Ghent". No less indicative of the academy's high-quality education and influence on contemporary art, are graduates such as Thierry De Cordier, Wim Delvoye, Valérie Mannaerts, and Jan De Cock.