Jannes Library


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The mission of the archives department is to select, preserve and make accessible historical records that document the history of the Kansas City Art Institute and its students. 

Pictured: A 1928 landscape painting class at KCAI on the campus green outside of Vanderslice Hall.

The archives provides services that support the research and information needs of the college community and researchers. The archives has particularly strong collections documenting KCAI’s publications, its faculty, the Kemper Gallery and special events throughout KCAI's history. Materials archived include but are not limited to books, KCAI publications, pamphlets, posters, diaries, letters, maps, photographs, audiotapes, films, videotapes, books and scrapbooks.

The KCAI archive collects and makes accessible materials in the following areas:   

  1. College administrative records including but not limited to correspondence, memoranda, minutes, summary financial records, academic research, curriculum, contracts, reports, subject files, published materials, photographs and any other material generated or received by the administrative and academic offices of the Kansas City Art Institute in the conduct of their business. 

  2. Materials that document the life of the KCAI community including student activities, alumni organizations, organization of faculty and administrators and other KCAI-related groups. Such materials are essential complements to official Kansas City Art Institute records. They may take a variety of forms including books, news clippings, manuscripts, maps and posters, motion picture films, audio and videotape.

  3. The personal and professional papers of prominent people associated with the Kansas City Art Institute, including KCAI officers, faculty, students, alumni and benefactors. These manuscript collections may include materials relating to issues of historical significance outside higher education as well as professional academic activities, research and teaching and educational theories and practices during the lifetime of the college. This collecting area also extends to the papers of individuals and organizations where the subject matter of the collection is particularly relevant to the history of the Kansas City Art Institute. 

The archives are located in the basement of the Jannes Library.

Contact archivist Nancy Warren at nwarren@kcai.edu or 816-802-3389 for more information and hours.

Timeline of the Kansas City Art Institute

1885: Sketch Club forms as the first organized art effort in the city.

1887: Kansas City Art Association and School of Design is incorporated.

1893: Fire destroys the entire equipment of the association and is followed by financial problems; operations are limited from 1894 to 1906.

1907: Fine Arts Institute of KC is incorporated, the successor to the association.

1914–1918: During World War I faculty and students sell work for Red Cross Relief fund; students create posters on U.S. Navy enlistment.

Pictured: A noon-hour pastime in an old life drawing classroom. From left to right, Mildred Davenport, Florence (Park) Vasconellos, Letha (Churchill) Walker and Margaret (Metzinger) Groener.

1915: Saturday classes for school children start.

1915–1917: Walt Disney attends Saturday classes.

Pictured: Walt Disney observed a children's class at KCAI on a visit he made to the campus in the 1960s. The famed animator took Saturday classes at KCAI himself, as a teenager, circa 1915-1917. It was his only formal training in art.

1917: First Beaux Arts ball (The second ball takes place in 1931).

Pictured: Students at the KCAI Beaux Arts Ball, 1938.

1918: John Stuart Curry attends summer classes (his first formal art training). 

1920: J.C. Nichols becomes president of the board.

1920: Name change from Fine Arts Institute of KC to the Kansas City Art Institute.

1920s: KCAI begins to host Midwestern Art Shows (Missouri and Kansas artists).

1924: Mrs. Downing loans books to start a KCAI library.

1927: Howard Vanderslice purchases and donates August R. Meyer residence.

Pictured: Howard Vanderslice.

1930s: Financial crisis. Fireside suppers, auctions, lectures and outdoor activities.

1931–1943: Annual Beaux Arts Balls raise about $1,500 each year.

1935–1941: Thomas Hart Benton is chair of painting department.

Pictured: Thomas Hart Benton painting in his studio.

1940: KCAI is credited with being the first school to inaugurate a civilian and industrial research camouflage training program (Time Magazine, October).

1945: G.I. Bill boosts enrollment

1947: KCAI becomea qualified to grant B.F.A. or B.A.A. degrees as well as offering master’s degrees.

1948: Enrollment reaches 600 students.

Pictured: A watercolor class at KCAI, 1948.

1948: Leonard Pryor becomes the first African American to attend KCAI.

1948: Robert Rauschenberg enrolls in the interior design department.

1963: The student Living Center opens; Charlotte Crosby Kemper Gallery opens.

1964: KCAI becomes fully accredited by NCA.

1973: Sherry Cromwell-Lacy is named director of exhibitions at the Kemper Gallery.

Pictured: Professor of fiber, Jane Lackey (left) and Sherry Cromwell-Lacy, director of exhibitions at the Kemper Gallery, setting up an exhibition at the Kemper in the early 1980s.

1977: The first Renaissance Festival, run by KCAI, takes place (the festival is sold in 1997).

Pictured: The KCAI Renaissance Festival, 1982.

1983: Preservation and restoration of Mineral Hall is completed.

1996–2004: KCAI completes $18 million in campus improvements.

1999: H&R Block Artspace opens.

Pictured: A Wenda Gu exhibition at H&R Block Artspace at KCAI, 2003.

2000–2004: The continuing education department increases enrollment from 339 in 1998 to 700 in 2004 and begins hosting Educators ArtLab.

2002: Jannes Library and Learning Center opens in the renovated Cunningham Mansion. Architects BNIM win the AIA-Kansas City Merit Award for Excellence in Design for the project.

Pictured: Jannes Library and Learning Center.

2003: Jannes Library and Learning Center wins the Historic Kansas City Foundation’s Preservation Award for the rehabilitation of the Cunningham Mansion.

2005: The Community Arts and Service Learning program is initiated.

Pictured: Jonothan Dandurand ('05 sculpture), the first CASL student, interning at the Mattie Rhodes Counseling & Art Center during the summer of 2005.

2006: Brush Creek Community Rain Garden is established.

2009: KCAI opens a continuing education facility in the Northland.

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