Sponsored Studio Program

Real-World Experience Sponsored By Local Businesses

We recognize the importance of providing students with real-world, hands-on experiences and enhanced training for successful careers. 

Sponsored Studio creates partnerships with local businesses to provide unique educational experiences for students while also assisting business partners with a fresh approach to their research and development, creative communications, and business challenges.

Micro is a student design firm here at KCAI that provides freelance illustration and design work to our business partners through the Sponsored Studio program. Studio visits, production tours and off-site research are all important components that contribute to the success.  Here are examples of student work produced through our Sponsored Studio and Community and Business Partnership Programs.

"We are proud to be involved with educational endeavors like this that support the arts and the education of young people who we hope will someday join our industry."

Norm Young
President and CEO, Weld Racing, 

Weld Racing Wheel design

Weld Racing awarded a $2,000 prize to Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) student Noah Geiger for his directional, on-spoke wheel design. Geiger captured the top prize in the first annual WELD KCAI Performance Design Challenge contest, which was open to students in the Virtual Sculpture Design class. The contest was part of our Sponsored Studio program where students work with businesses on research and development needs or design challenges.  The program was also tied to the 2015 KCAI Art of the Car Concours event of which WELD is a sponsor. Noah Geiger, a native of Rapid City, S.D., is a junior studying sculpture at KCAI. He designed his wheel to be coated in black except for the exterior face, which is polished.

All of the students who participated in the contest visited WELD’s Kansas City manufacturing facility to learn about recent developments in computer aided design (CAD) and finite element analysis (FEA) modeling before beginning their designs. Geiger’s wheel was produced by WELD, with slight modifications to accommodate its manufacturing standards.

Coterie Theatre Poster Design project

The KCAI illustration department operates an in-house “MICRO agency” composed of selected design students, led by assistant professor David Terrill.  Performing the typical tasks of a small creative firm, conceptualizing, designing, illustrating and presenting the work, their first client was the Coterie Theatre, a professional equity theatre based in Kansas City.

The students created six promotional posters for their 2015-2016 theatrical season. The posters were designed for “The Miracle Worker” by Kendall Quack, “And Justice for Some: The Freedom Trial of Anthony Burns” by Kendall Quack, “Tomas and the Library Lady” by Kristopher Martin, “Where the Wild Things Are” by Taylor Smith and Kendall Quack, “Dreamworks Madagascar: A Musical Journey” by Rosie Ruzicka and “The Magic Treehouse: A Ghost Tale for Mr. Dickens” by Kelsey Borcherding, opening during the 2016-2017 season.

Students were responsible for preparing and delivering final artwork to the Coterie ready for production. Through this exposure, the students received hands-on experience working with the Coterie in a professional manner.  Additionally, AIGA-KC, the professional association for design, recently selected Kristopher Martin (’15 illustration) for his Coterie poster, “Tomas and the Library Lady” for a regional design award.  The Coterie Theatre poster design project is continuing for the next six productions in their 2016-17 season.


Children’s Mercy Hospital – Medical Illustration project

Last fall, 15 students participated in KCAI’s first-ever course on biomedical visualization, a three-credit-hour elective offered through the college’s illustration program.

The instructor, Stan Fernald (’94 industrial design), is a research associate at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Fernald said he is excited about the potential for linking KCAI with Kansas City’s burgeoning biotechnology sector.

Incorporated into the class was a Sponsored Studio project in partnership with Children’s Mercy Hospital, which contacted KCAI for help in visually interpreting medical research concepts for low-literacy and illiterate populations in the U.S. and abroad.

“The No. 1 goal of all medical illustration is to convey abstract technical concepts to a public that may not know very much about the topic,” Fernald said. “It’s exciting to work with students to produce solutions for real-world applications — communication that goes beyond language and cultural barriers.”

Fernald noted that the field widely known as “medical illustration” has evolved beyond just drawing from observation, although drawing is still important. Tools of today’s medical illustrator include animation, vector art and 3-D printing, among others. According to Fernald, the successful medical illustrator needs to be adept in a variety of disciplines: graphic design, photography and illustration, to name a few.

“KCAI has always had a nice mix of fine arts, applied arts and conceptual thinking,” Fernald said. “When I am working with someone from this kind of fine arts background, compared to someone who has only been technically trained, I find they produce a deeper, richer, more nuanced solution.”

Over the last two semesters, students worked on various projects with Children’s Mercy Hospital, including creating visuals to break down cultural language barriers. As they look to the program’s future, the students are up to the challenge, according to Fernald.