The earliest attempt at promoting visual arts in Jamaica was in 1889, when Miss Long held classes in the library at the Institute of Jamaica, a “certificated” teacher from the South Kensington Art School, London, who was visiting the island. Miss Long held both day and evening classes, in drawing and painting, for ladies and children.

By 1942, when the nationalist art movement was in full swing, the Hon. Edna Manley, a co-opted member of the Art and Craft Committee, sought and received permission to hold adult classes in Art at the Junior Centre. These classes were a resounding success. The success of the art activities at the Junior Centre led to the establishment of the Jamaica School of Art and Craft in 1951.

The Hon. Altamont DaCosta had bequeathed premises at 1 Central Avenue, Kingston Gardens, to the city, a former mayor of Kingston and it was decided that this building, known as the DaCosta Institute, should be used as the home of the new school, which would be under the administration of the Institute of Jamaica. The principal aim of the school was to provide instruction for persons who wished to make a career of art and craft. The School of Visual Arts now offers several courses across eight (8) departments—namely Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking, Jewellery, Ceramics, Textiles and Fibre Arts, Visual Communications and Art Education—and continues to expand its course offerings to meet the needs of the industry.