History

From Sketch Club to
Renowned Art School

In 1885, an enterprising group of Kansas Citians with a mutual appreciation for art decided formed a Sketch Club. They had no idea this Sketch Club would lay the groundwork for an institution that would become a distinguished four-year college of art and design.

Notable names associated with the Kansas City Art Institute include Walt Disney, who took Saturday classes here as a child; painter Thomas Hart Benton, who taught here from 1935 to 1941; multimedia artist Robert Rauschenberg, who studied fashion design at KCAI; sculptor, conceptual artist and writer Robert Morris; celebrated, present-day performance artist, noted fabric sculptor and more recent KCAI graduate, Nick Cave, and the list goes on.

Today, KCAI is an impressive reflection of its 130-year history and the community in which it evolved.

View timeline of KCAI

Respecting the past, building the future

At the heart of the Kansas City Art Institute’s campus resides historic Vanderslice Hall, the geographic and administrative core of the college. The three-story red-brick mansion, once known as Marburg, became home to the school’s administrative offices in 1928 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

This spring Vanderslice Hall is undergoing an historic restoration, returning the mansion to its original grandeur. These updates will help preserve this significant building for many years to come.

Here’s what’s happening now:

  • Master craftsman are on ‘cherrypicker’ type lifts all around Vanderslice Hall doing tuckpointing by hand.
  • All of the stonework is being carefully power-washed.
  • The historic stained glass windows have been removed and cleaned and will be replaced in April.
  • Roof repair, metal repair and HVAC upgrades in Vanderslice Hall will begin later this spring.

Vanderslice Hall Restoration Project

Tuckpointing

Power-washing

Window replacement

Under Construction

Construction on the new David T. Beals III Studio for Arts & Technology continues and will continue throughout the summer. The studio will be filled with the latest cutting-edge technology including 3-D printers, cameras and scanners; laser cutters; touch-screens; and computer numeric control (CNC) routers to advance our student’s outstanding making capabilities and allow for instruction on the most innovative processes in art and design.

Other construction and building happening now on campus:

  • Work will begin in the next several weeks on the new Sculpture Studios’ entryway. The rear courtyard for Sculpture, with a large new slab and new canopy, is complete and fully functional.
  • The creation of a new courtyard and social space in front of the Nerman Cafe will begin in late April.
  • The main entry gates and parking area for campus, off Warwick, will be revised and expanded starting in late April. The entry gates will be for pedestrians crossing from Foundation Studios, Ceramics Studios and the Kemper Museum.

Roofing

Window installation

Main entry expansion