July 21, 2015
$750,000 renovation to KCAI ceramics building
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 21, 2015) – The Richard J. Stern Ceramics Building at Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) has quietly been home to one of the nation’s leading ceramics programs for nearly half a century. However, today – thanks to a $750,000 renovation – this hidden gem in Kansas City now shines for the global arts community to see.
Opened in 1968, the original building, located at 4410 Warwick Blvd., featured gas and wood-fired kilns, clay mixers and studio space with potters wheels, shelves and tables. There have been upgrades over the years, but none more significant than the current renovation, which increases access to technology and equipment, improves safety and provides a space where students can learn, create and thrive at their craft.
“The renovations to the main floor of the glaze room and the old kiln area – where students get their hands dirty molding, sculpting and firing kilns – includes a high-performing plaster lab and expanded glaze room,” said Cary Esser, professor and chair of the ceramics department. “At the same time, new soundproofing and ventilation equipment reduces noise and improves the air quality. We also built a loft-like mezzanine to provide a clean and quiet reprieve from the main floor with a resource library and digital studio with 3-D printers.”
The project has been the college’s highest priority in 2015, with the full backing of the Board of Trustees, and executed under the guidance of Tony Jones, interim president of KCAI. Funding for the project has come from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, which gave a $250,000 challenge grant, the Richard J. Stern Foundation and private donors. The college is 80 percent to its fundraising goal.
“This facility will elevate our ceramics program,” said Jones. “We will be full service, from mixing clay to 3-D technology. We are a craft-oriented and fully integrated system of education. We have a strong dedicated undergraduate program that serves the nation and, increasingly, the globe. This renovation secures KCAI as the destination in ceramic arts education.”
The project is generating additional buzz as the facility will be host to a national audience next spring. The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) will hold its 50th anniversary conference in Kansas City in March 2016.
“The theme is ‘Makers, Mentors and Milestones’ as we look at the past, present and future,” said Paul Donnelly, NCECA board member and KCAI assistant professor of ceramics. “It ties to Kansas City Art Institute and the renovations with the continued historic tradition of ceramics and the emergence into the digital future.”
The conference attracts an estimated 5,000 registrants, with an additional audience of 2,000 more people visiting 85 ceramics exhibitions across the metro, KCAI included.
“I’m excited and impressed that this important department is getting attention at this critical moment,” says Catherine Futter, Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Futter serves as a guest lecturer at KCAI and also mentors students and graduates. “Kansas City Art Institute has galvanized our arts community and fosters a strong foundation in Kansas City’s thriving arts scene. This renovation will help Kansas City look its very best in time for NCECA. This is an investment in the school’s ability to maintain and grow its strong reputation. I think we’ll see the Kansas City Art Institute ceramics program outdo itself every year.”
Kansas City firms Helix and McCownGordon Construction collaborated for the design-build project. Construction began in May, and the culmination ensures students will be able to utilize the facility as the fall semester begins. Visiting artists from China will be the first to work in the renovated Richard J. Stern Ceramics Building in August.
The “Dancers” are here! The dynamic two-part work, “Dancers (Tango)” by sculptor Ewerdt Hilgemann was recently installed at the campus entrance. Hilgemann, born in 1938 in Germany, lives in the Netherlands and US. “Dancers” was previously part of an installation on Park Avenue in New York City and has been generously loaned to the college by the artist. These 20-foot-high stainless steel and Corten steel columns each weigh a massive 1,675 pounds. This project inaugurates the college’s plan to place large-scale works on campus, on a constantly-changing basis. The idea is to create a “Sculpture Walk” that will connect the public artwork already in place at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, through the campus, to the array of work in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Garden at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Generous support for this installation was given by Marti and Tony Oppenheimer, Meg and Bill Zahner, Dick and Evelyn Belger, and Sean Kelley of A. Zahner Company. “Dancers” was installed during the International Sculpture Conference, which was held in Kansas City October 26-29. This conference brought together hundreds of artists, educators, arts administrators, museum directors, collectors, patrons, students and sculpture enthusiasts from around the country. These visitors read more…
Just weeks ago, for 48-hours the Kansas City Art Institute’s David T. Beals III Studios for Art & Technology were full of contestants dreaming up great ideas, crafting prototypes and products at the national Make 48 product competition. Our students were there every step of the way providing their expertise in fabrication, graphic design, photography, filmmaking and tech support. It’s part of KCAI’s ongoing commitment to give our students real-world, hands-on experience to prepare them for successful careers. In fact, we often work with businesses to provide unique opportunities for students who bring a creative, fresh approach to your organization’s challenges. KCAI students have worked on a range of projects from product design for Weld Wheels, rebranding for Powell Gardens and medical illustrations for Children’s Mercy Hospital. Learn how our talented students can work with your business through internships and our Sponsored Studio program. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-302-3527. KCAI has hosted Make48 twice. Last year’s competition is the focus of an eight-part documentary running in more than 200 public television markets across the country. You can see it Sundays at 5:30 p.m. on KCPT Channel 19.
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