The ‘Ceylon Technical School’, later named as ‘Ceylon Technical College’ was established in 1893 and included Western painting in their syllabi. In 1949 Department of Arts and Crafts of Ceylon Technical College was shifted to the Haywood building Situated at Horton place Colombo 07 under the supervision of the painter JDA Perera. The Department of Arts and Crafts of Ceylon Technical College in Colombo 07 was separated from the Ceylon Technical College in 1952 and was upgraded as the ‘Government Institute of Arts’. Thereafter, Sinhalese indigenous dance and North Indian Music courses were introduced as was the vision of the Head of Institute at that time, painter J.D.A. Perera. Since indigenous music was not identified as scholarly during this time, North Indian music was introduced to the Institute instead. Dr. Lionel Edirisinghe (1913-1988) was appointed as course master for Music. In 1953, the Government Institute of Arts was renamed as the ‘Government School of Fine Arts’ and was announced as an independent Department under the Ministry of Education. It provided teaching facilities for drawing, painting, sculpture, crafts, music and dance and the classes were conducted at Horton Place, Colombo 7 premises. However, music and dance courses were moved to Albert Crescent in Colombo 07 later, due to lack of space.

In 1960, the Government College of Fine Arts was again renamed as the ‘Sri Lanka National Institute of Arts’ under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. In 1965, the arts and crafts section at the Horton Place, Colombo 7 was upgraded to an independent college, named as ‘Government College of Arts and Crafts’ under the Ministry of Education. The music section was upgraded as the ‘Government College of Music’ and veteran musician Dr. Lionel Edirisinghe (1913-1988) was appointed as its Principal. The ‘Institute of Aesthetic Studies’ (IAS) was established in 1974 by the amalgamation of the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Government College of Music, Government College of Dance and Ballet and Ramanathan Academy, Jaffna. The IAS consisted of three departments; the Department of Art and Sculpture, the Department of Music and the Department of Dance and Ballet. The veteran musician Dr. W.D. Amaradeva became the first Head of the Department of Music. IAS was affiliated to the University of Kelaniya in 1980.