February 19, 2019


One hundred percent of our faculty are practicing artists, designers and scholars and when they aren’t busy teaching, they’re painting, drawing, sculpting, writing books, making films and creating public art.  Below are the stories of two of our faculty members who are changing the world in their own way, one by writing and illustrating children’s books and the other by working on what might become the world’s tallest public art piece.

Whimsical Animals Come to Life in Children’s Books by Illustration Assistant Professor Il Sung Na
Once there was a pig that admired birds. But there was no way a pig could fly. Or was there?

So, begins the story of a tenacious pig in the children’s book The Dreamer written and illustrated by Assistant Professor of Illustration Il Sung Na, whose playful drawings and never-give-up message captured the attention of the New York Times and Kirkus Reviews. Published in the fall of 2018, it was his twelfth children’s book starring imaginative animals.

His inspiration for his books begins with his never-ending desire to learn more. “It all starts with my curiosity. I keep asking myself questions and keep finding answers. Once I find an answer, it becomes a story and it becomes a book,” he said.

Other titles include  Bird Balloon Bear, Book of Sleep and The Opposite Zoo all featuring his signature coloring style “….that feels as if someone took a firecracker to a box of crayons…” according to the New York Times and is described as “….so joyous, so jubilantly colorful, it feels celebratory and poetic…” by the Boston Globe. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Na joined the KCAI Illustration faculty in 2017. He has a B.F.A. in Illustration and Animation from Kingston University in London, where he discovered a passion for children’s books. He went on to complete his M.F.A. in Illustration Practice at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). In addition to working on children’s books, he is a practicing ceramicist infamous for his “butt lamps.”

Follow him on Instagram @ilsungna or visit ilsungna.com

Painting Professor Jim Woodfill Dreams of Lighting Up the
Kansas City Sky 

In the 80s before there were Google Maps or navigation in the car, Jim Woodfill would look to the sky to find his way around Kansas City. The KCTV5 broadcast tower at 31st and Grand became his personal beacon of light, guiding him home after a night out.  It started a life-long fascination with the Kansas City landmark and when he was invited to be the lead artist on a project that could potentially turn the tower into one of the world’s tallest public art pieces, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.

“You see the tower from the most amazing places around the city and many people have stories about when it was lit.  We think it’s the perfect project to bring the community together to discuss issues about the urban and suburban conditions in Kansas City,” said Jim.

This collaborative project called “Seeing the Night Bluely” is the brainchild of Kansas City entrepreneur Jason Mullarney. He formed the non-profit The Tower KC and put together a team that includes Jim, Jose Faus as lead community engagement artist and Architects El Dorado Inc. Jim’s vision is to record the condition of the atmosphere during the day and play it back at night. There will be a blue tone that moves slowly from sunset to sunrise.  It’s meant to be contemplative, a companion for the cityscape, and a prompt for the city’s self-examination.

There have been several years of discussions on this speculative piece. It’s a tough engineering project with layers of issues to consider so numerous elements need to come together before the tower is lit. But when it is completed, it will have a quarter-century life span and be a legacy project for Jim. “I’ve been dreaming about this tower for forty years. As it sits, it’s a gorgeous sculpture, but when the project is completed it will have an even more significant impact on our city,” he said.

Jim Woodfill has a long history of transformative public art projects.  To read more about his work visit his website.

March 15, 2019

Hoffman Visiting Artist Lecture Presents Visual Artist and Social Critic Titus Kaphar

Can art amend history?  Come and explore new narratives on Thursday, April 4 at 7 p.m. in Epperson Auditorium with visual artist and social critic Titus Kaphar, whose art reimagines historical events. His paintings, sculptures and installations seek to dislodge history from its status as the “past” in order to unearth its contemporary relevance. Kaphar is a distinguished recipient of numerous prizes and awards including a 2018 MacArthur Fellowship, a 2014 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellowship, a 2015 Creative Capital grant, a 2016 Robert R. Rauschenberg Artist as Activist grant and a 2018 Art for Justice Fund grantee. His work is included in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum, Bentonville, Ark., The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Perez Art Museum (PAMM) in Miami, amongst others. This free public lecture is underwritten by the Hoffman Visiting Artist Endowment. The purpose is to bring nationally recognized artists who focus on contemporary art practices to give an annual talk to Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) students, faculty and the Kansas City community, as well as work with students and faculty in their studios. The Visiting Artist is selected through a process administered by a select group of representatives read more…

March 4, 2019

Exhibition at Haw Contemporary Showcases Past and Present Faculty Art

Lineage and Impact: KCAI Faculty Past and Present, March 1- May 4 at Haw Contemporary Stockyards, celebrates seven decades of working artists on the faculty of the Kansas City Art Institute, a community that values making, teaching, and learning art as interdependent, often inextricable practices. Beginning with and paying homage to Wilbur Niewald, who began teaching in 1949, the exhibition honors artwork by luminaries and pathbreakers such as Ken Ferguson, Warren Rosser, Lester Goldman, Jane Lackey, Jim Leedy, Carl Kurtz, Steve Whitacre, Hirokazu Fukawa, Erin Zona, and Milton Katz, as well as emerging talents appointed to the faculty as recently as 2018. In keeping with KCAI’s commitment to forging connections across and between all artistic disciplines and practices, Lineage and Impact represents a multitude of fields: animation, ceramics, drawing, fiber, fiction, film, music, painting, photography, poetry, sculpture, and video, as well as installations and collaborative works resistant to classification. Media on display range from cast glass to silicon circuitry, from combed cotton to works on canvas, from letterpress to digital print, from modular synthesizer to modern languages. This vibrant collection demonstrates the profound historical influence of KCAI’s long tradition of appointing outstanding artists to its faculty—several of the younger artists were read more…