The Faculty of Visual Arts has a long history spanning over one hundred years. Its origin goes back to the establishment of the Ceylon Technical School (later the Ceylon Technical College), Maradana in 1893. Courses relating to painting and drawing were taught in this institute at the time.

In 1949, the Department of Arts and Crafts of the Ceylon Technical College was shifted to Heywood building at Horton Place, Colombo 07, where the Faculty of Visual Arts is located today. It was separated from the Ceylon Technical College in 1952 and was upgraded as the ‘Government Institute of Arts’ that offered diploma courses appointing pioneer painter J.A.D. Perera as the head of the institute.

The Government Institute of Arts was renamed as the ‘Government School of Fine Arts’ which taught Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Crafts, Music and Dance. In 1960, the Government College of Fine Arts was renamed again as the ‘Sri Lanka National Institute of Art’ under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. In 1965, arts and crafts sections were upgraded to an independent body naming ‘Government College of Arts and Crafts’.

Based on the recommendations of art expertise, the Institute of Aesthetic Studies (IAS) which had three major departments namely the Department of Art and Sculpture, Music, and Dance and Ballet was established in 1974.  IAS was affiliated to the University of Kelaniya in 1979.

In 2004, a special committee was appointed by the Sri Lankan Government to investigate the art education and structural system of IAS. Based on the committee decision, the University of the Visual and Performing Arts (UVPA) was established on the 1st of July 2005 under the university Act No.16 of 1978 by the Gazette No. 1400/24 dated 08th July 2005 of Sri Lanka. This institutional body relating to Visual Art has contributed to produce a number of nationally and internationally recognized Sri Lankan artists, designers, and scholars.