May 28, 2020

Fond Farewell to Two Inspirational Faculty Members

Two beloved faculty members, with over 76 years of combined service to KCAI, retired at the end of the 2020 academic year. They’ve inspired generations of students with their relentless passion for teaching and leave an immeasurable impact on the college. Thank you Steve Whitacre and Karen McCoy for your years of service, dedication to our students, and active engagement on campus. Congratulations on your retirement. You will be missed. 

Fellow faculty share tributes to their accomplishments.

Steve Whitacre
Professor and Sosland Family Chair of Foundation
Joined KCAI in 1969

For over half a century, Steve Whitacre’s remarkable and distinguished career and long-standing leadership of the Foundation program at KCAI has earned national and international recognition.  Before coming to KCAI in 1969, Steve studied at the Columbus College of Art and Design and earned both a BFA and MFA from Ohio University.  According to the artist and educator, his studio practice continues to explore the estuary between art and architecture in relationship to sculpture and personal, poetic language.  Steve’s works are held in many private collections and have been widely exhibited in this country, England, Scotland, and Italy. He has taught and led projects at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, the University of Illinois, Chicago campus, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  He has held appointments as Sculptor in Residence at Brighton Polytechnic and Hall Polytechnic in England and has served as visiting critic, lecturer, and consultant to America’s leading colleges and universities of art and design.  In 2002, he received the Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2005, the Excellence in Teaching Award from KCAI. 

Speaking about his work, Steve explains that for him “the process of making art is an act of courage, an exploration of profound unclear complexities of existence.”  Through his passionate and inspirational teaching at KCAI, Whitacre has skillfully and sensitively instilled in over 2,000 freshman students the courage to explore the complexities of their and collective existence, and from this understanding, create oftentimes profound works of art, sometimes out of nothing, as one of his former students still remembers to this day.  Steve’s legacy to KCAI is one of acquired wisdom, unbridled passion for art and education, a deep commitment to both institutional and programmatic excellence, and a tireless work ethic, coupled with integrity, dignity, and grace.  

Milton Katz, Ph.D.
Professor and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Karen McCoy
Professor, Sculpture
Joined KCAI in 1994   

Karen McCoy joined the faculty of KCAI in 1994 to chair, teach-in, and expand the vision of the sculpture program. Her career as an educator and activist for sustainability in the new Anthropocene exemplifies the role of the artist today. McCoy’s legacy at KCAI impacts not only the sculpture department but the entire college.  Her leadership forges new perceptions, understanding, and solutions for the community to reuse, repurpose, and recycle as stewards of our future. Most recently, in her elective “Art in the Age of Planetary Distress” and her site-specific installation for the 2020 Venice Architectural Biennial, McCoy cultivates awareness of our individual and collective actions and responsibilities. Her enduring legacy empowers students and colleagues to understand their creative roles as global citizens alongside their voices as local agents.  

Karen McCoy’s international reputation as an artist is evidenced by her numerous exhibitions, grants, publications, public presentation, and collections. An avid traveler, McCoy has created art and conducted research about ecological, geographic, and societal forces in Denmark, England, France, Japan, and Taiwan  among others. McCoy’s work has been anthologized in numerous texts, including John Beardsley’s  (1998 Earthworks and Beyond (3rd Ed.),  Henry Sayre’s (2010) World of Art (6th Ed.),  Paul Cooper’s (2003) Gardens Without Boundaries, and Matthew Potteiger and Jamie Purinton’s (1998) Landscape Narratives, among others. Her work is in the Oppenheimer Collection at the Nerman Contemporary Museum of Art. As a participant in the international Walking Artists Network, her work extends the practice of walking, listening, observing, and drawing in response to sites and nature including New York City’s Central Park. McCoy’s diverse body of work and concepts can be explored on her website at and Wikipedia:

Karen McCoy’s mark on the KCAI community passionately endures. The seeds that she has planted in the consciousness of her students and peers have taken root and continue to thrive to the benefit of the community.

Jill Downen
Associate Professor and Chair of Sculpture

July 9, 2020

Lead Bank’s Lead Emerging Artist Prize Celebrates Diverse Talents 

Artwork Corn, OK by Stella Bonafazi (Junior, Photography) Lead Bank recently awarded the 2020-2021 Lead Emerging Artist Prize (LEAP) to the following four KCAI art students: Ryan Haney (Senior, Sculpture) of Miami, FL; Stella Bonafazi (Junior, Photography) of Tulsa, OK; London Williams (Senior, Painting) of Milwaukee, WI; and Hung Le (Junior, Fiber) of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Longtime supporters of KCAI and its Sponsored Studio Program, Lead Bank created the Lead Bank Emerging Artist Prize in 2018 as a benefit to the community. Recognizing the diverse talents each student holds, from imaginative sculpting and captivating photography to the exploration of mainstream topics through fabric, each student has shown his or her expertise through hands-on expression. Their work can be viewed on the following webpage:  Each year, Lead Bank features the recipient’s artwork on the Bank’s Community Art Panels located in their Crossroads branch parking lot. These panels were constructed specifically for the community to enjoy the artists’ works throughout the year. The four Emerging Artists’ artwork will be featured as a 2D mural on the Community Art Wall located at the Crossroads bank location (1801 Main Street) with the original artwork displayed inside the bank lobby.  “We are thrilled to welcome read more…

June 1, 2020

KCAI: We Stand Against Racism

KCAI utterly condemns the ongoing racist treatment of Black Americans that has resulted in the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and in the continued murders, harassment, and prejudice that our Black community members face on a daily basis.