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.

May 20, 2019

KCAI Commemorates Student Residence Hall Topping Out

The Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) recently celebrated a construction milestone, the topping out of a new 244-bed student residence hall, Wylie Dining Center and Café Nerman. To commemorate the occasion, a fir tree, traditionally known as the ‘construction tree’, was placed on the literal apogee of the building, the highest point. “The final stages of construction on this project are about to begin. We are imminently closer to finishing the buildings where students will have a safe, comfortable home and the community can commune in our common spaces, dine in the new Wylie Dining Center and have a cup of coffee in Café Nerman,” said Tony Jones, Nerman Family President. Construction on the new facilities, located along Warwick Boulevard south of the campus gates, began last summer and students are slated to move in January 2020. Designed by Helix Architecture + Design with the contemporary art student in mind, the residence hall features double-occupancy semi-suites with private baths and cozy study spaces and celebrates the unique individuality of each student while creating a sense of community. Kansas City-based JE Dunn Construction is the general contractor for the project. See renderings of the project here.

May 2, 2019

Join us for an evening of art, food and fun at the Art & Design Auction on June 1

On June 1 the Kansas City Art Institute campus will be the epicenter for a remarkable evening of art, entertainment, creative food and festive drink at the Art & Design Auction. Honorary Chair George Terbovich and Event Chairs Ellen and Jamie Copaken are planning an evening perfect for friends who share a passion for supporting art and design education.  This year’s ADA celebrates Kansas City’s creative economy and the KCAI alumni, faculty and friends that have helped shape it. Browse and bid on more than 250 silent and live auction artworks donated by our faculty, alumni and friends. The artwork will span across mediums and price points to include sculptures, paintings, prints, fibers, ceramics and more.  Live auction items include work by Lester Goldman (1942-2005) (Late Faculty) and Angela Dufresne (’91 Painting) as well as Sculpture Chair Jill Downen (’89 Painting & Faculty) among others. The silent auction, hosted by GiveSmart will open a week before the event, giving you plenty of time to bid on artwork.  The auctioneer for the live auction is Kansas City native Quig Bruning, vice president and specialist in the jewelry department at Sotheby’s Auction House. The silent auction will also include fourteen 3 ft. read more…