As an outcome of the University Reforms Bill of 1972, according to which the teaching of subjects that fall under the category of Humanities and Languages were limited to the University of Kelaniya, then known as the Vidyalankara Campus of the University of Sri Lanka, a study program of Fine Arts was introduced under the Department of English. This study program was the successor to the Fine Arts program taught at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya that was discontinued under the provisions of the university reforms Bill. Professor  Asley Halpe, the Head of the Department of English, who was transferred from Peradeniya to Vidyalankara in 1974 under the provisions of the same Bill, convinced the Faculty Board that a Fine Arts program similar to the one he introduce at Peradeniya, should be introduced at Vidyalankara, Accordingly with the support of several members of the Faculty, namely professor Chandrasiri Palliyaguru, Sunanda Mahendra de Mel, Somarathne Balasooriya, M. H. Gunathilake, and G. K. Haththotuwegama, Professor Halpe introduced the Fine Arts study program to the University of Kelaniya in early 1972, with an enrolment of some twenty-odd students. The study program remained under his leadership as the Head of the Department of English for nearly three years until stepped down in1978.

Initially, the Fine Arts was offered as a subject only for the General Degree program. However, due to requests made by enthusiastic students, the faculty decided to offer a special degree program. At the beginning the program was offered in both Sinhala and Tamil media though the latter medium was discontinued abandoned due to the absence of students in Tamil medium. Following the stepping down of Prof. Halpe in 1978, the study program was placed under the control of the Dean with Prof. Gunathilake serving as the lecturer-in-charge. Subsequently, the study program received the status of a full-fledged department in 1978. The  members who served as the Head of Department are as follows

Prof. M. H. Gunathilake                     1978-1992

Mrs. Mangalika Jayathunga                1992 - 1995

Dr. B. D. Nandadewa                         1995 -  September 2000

Dr. Patrick  Rathnayake                      September 2000 - August 2003

Dr.B.D.Nandadewa                            August 2003 – May 2004

Prof. Kulathilake Kumarasinghe         Acting Head for short time period

Prof. Gamini Delabandara                   Acting Head for short time period

Prof. Kulathilake Kumarasinghe         August 2005 – 2008

In October 2008, the department was divided in to two academic units; namely the Visual Arts, Design and Performing Arts Unit; and the Image Arts and Drama and Theatre Unit, with  Dr. Nandadeva and Dr Patrick Rathnayake as their respective heads.  The first unit was located in the Senake Bandaranayake Hall in Block K10, while the second unit was located in the ground floor of Block K2.

Prof.Prashanthi Narangoda, Ms. Lanka de Silva, Mrs Dulanga Gunarathna, Mr Asitha Amarakoon, Mrs. Dhanushka Dissanayake, Mr. Chandana Ruwan Kumara, Mr. Milinda Tennakone, & Mr. Ranganath de Silva are the current Members of the Visual Arts & Design and Performing Arts Unit. Ms. Lanka de Silva is the current Unit Head of Visual Arts & Design and Performing Arts Unit.

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