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 for 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.

Thanks to the generosity of the William T. Kemper Foundation, this spring Vanderslice Hall will undergo an historic restoration, returning the mansion to its original grandeur. These updates will help preserve this significant building for many years to come.

Your future space under construction

Construction on the new David T. Beals III Studio for Arts & Technology recently began in late January of this year. 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.