President's Message

We couldn’t let 2016 conclude without sharing one more bit of exciting news. Two KCAI alumni, Stanley Whitney (’68 painting) and Roberto Lugo (’12 ceramics) as well as former KCAI fiber faculty member Piper Shepard, were named
United States Artists fellows and have each received $50,000. This prestigious award, which recognizes fresh perspectives, unique artistic vision and impact, is significant because the artists were nominated by their peers and experts in their field.

Memo-Header_FellowshipsStanley Whitney is a world renowned artist with a signature compositional approach to his paintings – gridded squares of colorful pigment divided by thin horizontal lines. His work has been shown at museums including the American Academy of Art and Letters, New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. In Europe, solo gallery exhibitions have been mounted in Berlin, Brussels, Vienna and Rome.

Roberto Lugo’s Puerto Rican heritage and his upbringing on the streets of Philadelphia play a prominent role in his porcelain work. His teapots feature imagery at odds with themselves, like a confederate flag and the face of a hip-hop artist. His work is drawing national acclaim for activism themes. He’s had exhibitions throughout the United States and has been a visiting lecturer at numerous prep-schools and colleges including Phillip Exeter Academy and Harvard University.

Please help us congratulate Stanley, Roberto and Piper on this tremendous honor and for their brilliant contributions to the art world.



KCAI/Nelson-Atkins Durwood Internship Program Gives Students Professional Experience

163158_033High up on a mast lift in a gallery at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Lighting and Fabrications Technician Jake Ludemann (’11 sculpture) adjusts a spotlight to shine on a gilded 15th century Spanish altarpiece. He knows that lighting transforms art, drawing the eye into it and setting the mood with a play of light and dark. For five years, he has been a part of the museum’s lighting team and has put his hands on every light fixture in the building. It’s a job he loves but one he could never have imagined doing until going through the Durwood Internship program during the summer of his junior year at KCAI.

“I was a sculpture student and part of my work was lighting and sound based so I thought the lighting internship would be interesting. I approached it with a willingness to learn, worked my tail off and gradually discovered more about how lighting can enhance the museum experience. About 75 percent into the internship I knew that this was what I wanted to do,” said Ludemann.  

The internship program was established in 2010 by the Stanley H. Durwood Foundation. According to Charles Egan, Durwood Foundation trustee, “We started the internships to encourage collaboration between the Nelson-Atkins and KCAI, and to give students hands-on practical work experience in a museum setting. This partnership bridges two of Kansas City’s best institutions.”

Since inception, there have been 194 internships and this year 25 students are working in 15 areas of the museum including East Asian Art, Exhibition Design, and Marketing Communications. Students must apply for a position, receive a recommendation from KCAI faculty and go through a formal interview process. Once accepted, they receive $12 per hour for their work. The opportunity for students to intern at the Nelson-Atkins is exciting on its own, but getting paid for their work makes this an extremely popular and competitive experience.

According to Steven Waterman, the Nelson-Atkins director of design and experience, students working at the museum bring a youthful perspective that can shake-up traditional ways of operating. “Interns are the future of the working community. If we pay attention and listen to what’s important to them, it has the potential to change the work environment and the ways we communicate.  It’s really been an exciting part of the internship program.”

Bambi Burgard, KCAI executive vice president of academic affairs, said the program has provided students with a competitive advantage when applying to graduate school programs and professional positions. The Durwood Internship program has been incredibly meaningful to our students because it has provided them with career-shaping professional experiences in a world-class museum setting. This opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they are gaining through their rigorous studio and liberal arts courses is truly unique in an undergraduate program.”

Ludemann, who now manages his own interns, offers the following advice for students considering a Durwood internship. “If you work hard, engage in the material and make connections, it will definitely give you a leg-up post-college.”  

And like Ludemann, it just might send them down an unexpected, rewarding career path.


unnamedSweeten your Holidays with Charitable Chocolates from Bizz an Weezy

Bizz and Weezy and Lead Bank have teamed up to create a delicious holiday promotion that satisfies both your sweet tooth and your desire to give back to our community! Purchase a dark chocolate bar designed by local artists for only $9.95 and $5 will be given to KCAI, $4 to Camp Fire and $1 to the artist. Choose from two festive holiday designs. Bizz and Weezy Confections is located at 1800 Baltimore Avenue in Kansas City.


Evelyn Craft Belger and Dick Belger Receive Philanthropy Award

The Missouri Arts Council has named Evelyn and Dick Belger, former KCAI board members and generous supporters of the ceramics program, the 2017 Missouri Arts Award winners for Philanthropy. They will be honored at a ceremony at the Rotunda of the Capitol Building on Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. as part of the Missouri Citizens for the Arts Citizen Day celebration. Read more about the Belgers and their contributions to the Kansas City arts community at

Call for Proposals for Zahner Sculpture Design Competition

Zahner Company has, again, joined forces with the Kansas City Art Institute to sponsor a design competition, affording the winner a rare opportunity to collaborate with the creative minds and staid expertise of Zahner engineers to fabricate a large-scale outdoor artwork. Open to current KCAI students and alumni, the winning proposal will be featured and auctioned during the Biennial Kansas City Art Institute Art & Design Auction on June 3, 2017. This year’s competition is unique as it is site specific for a Kansas City collector.

All engineering, fabrication materials, transportation and installation are generously provided by Zahner at no cost to the artist. Funds raised will be placed in the KCAI Student Scholarship Fund to benefit the next generation of artists and designers. Link to Zahner website page

Alumni News

Alumna Karen Kicekice_pic2

As the Neville Bryan Assistant Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, Karen Kice (‘01 ceramics and art history) develops exhibitions and identifies acquisitions for the collection of contemporary architecture and design. Kice stays abreast of current happenings in her discipline through studio visits, lectures, travel and research while periodically teaching graduate seminars at the Art Institute of Chicago related to the research she is developing.

Kice curated the exhibition, “Chatter: Architecture Talks Back” at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015, highlighting five emerging architects whose work communicated ideas influenced by contemporary modes of communication like texting, Instagram and Twitter. “It was an exciting exhibition for me to do because it allowed me to position their work in a contemporary context and make new statements about several of the trends I see in architecture practices,” Kice said. She wrote in the exhibition catalog in depth about her ideas regarding the work.     

How does Kice’s B.F.A. degree in ceramics play into her current role as a curator of architecture and design? “My education at KCAI helped to develop my critical thinking and problem solving skills. I also developed a very strong work ethic—everyone was very passionate and dedicated to their work—it was an amazing and productive environment as a student.” Kice also credits the relationships formed at KCAI as being a lasting support throughout her career.

For students just starting their careers, she has some great advice – apply your creative thinking skills and follow your own path. She considers her own indirect path of seemingly unrelated experiences a positive result of being open to outcome, and while Kice has found herself in various disciplines of study, what she has learned from those experiences has been invaluable to the position she holds today.

“Since leaving KCAI, I’ve done a huge array of work and have jumped around working in several disciplines. I’ve always looked wide and far for the next opportunity and it’s always exciting to see what is next,” she said.
Successful Alumni Gathering  in Chicago

Gathering group picA recent gathering of alumni from 1974 to 2015 took place in Chicago in conjunction with the SOFA Chicago Art Fair, and doubled as a celebration of  the Chicago Cubs World Series win! Marcus Cain, alumni relations and development director, visited the studios of Robert Chaise Heishman (’08 photography and art history), Jack Perno (’00 photo/new media) and Ellen Green (’98 painting). Neville Bryan Assistant Curator for the Department of Architecture and Design at the Chicago Art Institute Karen Kice (’01 ceramics and art history), provided a behind-the-scenes tour of the Chicago Art Institute.  Alumni were also well represented at SOFA Chicago by Debra Smith (’93 fiber) at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts; Joey Watson (’14 ceramics) at Duane Reed Gallery and Roberto Lugo (’12 ceramics) at Wexler Gallery.

Student News

Illustration Students Complete Scarritt Elementary School Beautification

The transformation of vacant Scarritt Elementary School in the Historic Northeast district of Kansas City is complete. Since its closure the school has stood empty, windows and doors covered with white panels that served as ripe opportunity for vandalism. Kansas City Art Institute illustration students made it their goal to beautify the neglected building to deter these acts of vandalism and make the building a more positive landmark for the surrounding neighborhood.

KTGM-Week6-Cece+Astrid+MeredithSince the fall semester of 2014, illustration juniors have teamed up and contributed to the Scarritt Elementary school project as a part of an illustration course called, “US,” which celebrates the collaborative nature of art practices and exposes students to the necessary challenges of learning to work together. Under the direction of KCAI alumnus and Assistant Professor of Illustration Héctor Casanova (’98 illustration), the “US” class has taken on another level of collaboration—illustrators engaging and interacting within communities.

LesCapitaines photo11 week6-2Participating students considered their responsibilities as artists when representing the rich diversity of the historic northeast neighborhood, striving to make images that the residents living around the school would take pride in seeing every day. Scarritt Elementary neighbor Mark’kesha Meck commented, “I love how it’s making the community very colorful, it’s not just dull and white. When I go on my porch I don’t just see an old school broken down, I see beautiful colors. It’s very wonderful.”

With the combined effort of 90 contributing illustration students, and additional participation by students from the Northeast Middle and Northeast High School, the Scarritt Elementary building is a source of pride for the neighborhood. The final groups of illustration students finished the latest murals and they have been installed.

The Scarritt Elementary project may be coming to a close, but the work to be done in the community is far from over for Casanova and his students. “Next year, the US class will continue with the same mission: using art to improve communities in tangible ways,” Casanova states, “There are still many more decommissioned public school buildings all throughout the metro area. These empty school buildings are at best an eye sore, and at worst, a magnet for vandalism and blight. We will be consulting with the KC Public School District to discuss where the next mural project should be.”

The time and talents of KCAI’s illustration students will undoubtedly continue to be put to good use in beautifying Kansas City in the near future.

ArtPop Promotional Materials Win Philly Award

15025477_10154554523505180_5476523310842259500_oThe ArtPop invitation and promotional materials, designed by fall 2015 Micro students, won a Philly Award of Distinction from Non-Profit Connect. Now in their 14th year, the Philly Awards celebrate local nonprofits driving social change through outstanding achievements in communications and marketing.

Faculty News



Illustration faculty member John Ferry has a painting in “MANIFEST: 7th International Painting Annual.”  

The goal of the “International Painting Annual” (IPNA) is to support the recognition, documentation, and publication of excellent, current, and relevant works of painting from around the world. As a carefully designed book, the INPA enables Manifest to assemble a diverse array of works from around the world, without the limitation of physical availability, gallery space, or shipping logistics.