President's Message


Jerry Nerman and Tony JonesWe recently lost a treasured member of the KCAI family, Jerry Nerman. He was 97 at the time of his passing and an extraordinary person. In your lifetime, you meet people who just stand out as being very special, very different, very unique, and he was one of those people.  His passion and commitment to KCAI and the arts have left a lasting impression on everyone he met.

KCAI has an intimate connection with the Nerman family. Jerry’s wife Margaret served on the board of trustees from 1999-2008 and the connection continues today with daughter-in-law Sue, who currently serves on the board of trustees.

“Jerry was a gentleman of the community and I am very sad to hear the news of his passing. He not only loved art and artist, but loved to share his art with so many. The Nerman Museum at Johnson County Community College is a legacy of Jerry and Margaret and an asset that will be forever cherished by the greater KC community.  Margaret, Lewis, Sue and his entire family will be in our thoughts and prayers,” said KCAI Board of Trustees Chair Pat McCown.

In 2016, the Nermans permanently endowed my position as president. Among their many other contributions to KCAI, they are the benefactors who made Café Nerman possible, a central gathering place for faculty, students, staff and visitors that was dedicated in 2004. Jerry and Margaret were awarded honorary doctorate of fine arts degrees during the college’s commencement ceremony in 2008.

Jerry was really a giant, a giant twice. A giant in the transport trucking industry, but in the world of art and design, Jerry and Margaret’s collection is known as a world-class collection of late modern and contemporary art. And that tradition with them has carried forward to Lewis and Sue who have built a contemporary collection quite different, but equally a world-class collection.

Although it is very difficult to say goodbye, Jerry’s legacy will live on in the countless individuals he inspired and graced with his passion and wit. KCAI and the vibrant Kansas City community are forever indebted to his untiring devotion to creativity and the arts.



Art and Design Live Auction will feature
Sotheby’s AuctioneerIMG_5003

Lisa Dennison, chairman, Americas for Sotheby’s, recently toured the KCAI campus with Tony Jones to prepare for the Art & Design Auction on June 3. Our auctioneer for the event is Kansas City native Quig Bruning, vice president and specialist in the jewelry department at Sotheby’s,

 KCAI’s biennial Art & Design Auction will be on Saturday, June 3 from 6-10 p.m. on campus.  The Auction promises to have fine art, festive fare and friends who share a passion for supporting art and design education. Silent and live auctions will feature original artwork created and donated by distinguished alumni and faculty. The Star Artist for the evening is Keith Jacobshagen (’65 Design). All event proceeds support student scholarships

Honorary Chairs are Lewis and Sue Nerman, KCAI Trustee. Event Chairs are Alex and Abby Wendel. Tickets start at just $125 and Patron and Sponsor levels include an invitation to the Backer’s Bash.  Go to for tickets and more information.

Vote For Your Favorite Tote Design

Get a limited-edition KCAI tote designed by one of our students and help #shapeKCAI by supporting the Annual Fund – all at the same time! Click here to shop and vote for your favorite tote design. Contest designs are only available through April 7, 2017.

All designs may be voted on by the public, and each purchase constitutes as a vote. The three artists with top-selling designs will each be featured and promoted in the KCAI Art Store for one full year and receive the following cash and gift certificate awards courtesy of the KCAI Art Store, Illustration and Graphic Design departments and Alumni Relations:

Top Designer – $550 cash award + $250 KCAI Art Store gift card
Leading Designer – $300 cash award + $100 KCAI Art Store gift card
Supporting Designer – $150 cash award + KCAI $50 Art Store gift card

Fifty percent of all sales benefit KCAI’s Annual Fund, which provides critical support for student services, financial assistance and much needed campus technology and equipment.

Alumni News

Spencer Museum Acquires Painting by Alumna

Duncan White CloudThe Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University recently acquired White Cloud returning to Grass, a painting by Patricia DuBose Duncan (’70 painting). Duncan is currently living in Maine where her art includes a series of paintings entitled the The Memory of Trees. Duncan’s ancestral family names, Du Bosc, means “of the trees” in French.

Chebon White Cloud, the great-great grandson of Chief White Cloud of the Oto-Iowa Nation, was a student at Haskell University when he agreed to meet Duncan and pose for his portrait. He told her that there would be a price to pay to pose in complete native dress. He added that he was doing this because she fulfilled a recent dream that a white woman would appear to record his generation of the White Cloud family. He dressed in costume and posed for his portrait. The price? Two McDonald’s big Macs!

The garments he wore included the handed down grizzly bear claw necklace that is around the neck of his great-great grandfather in a painting by George Catlin that is owned by the Smithsonian. Duncan created the surrealistic painting White Cloud Returning to Grass after Chebon White Cloud’s death at age 50 in 1996. The 50” X 50” acrylic painting with charcoal and collage elements is one of Duncan’s largest and most notable works of art.


Alumnus Releases Movie Score

Christopher Willits (’00 photography/new media) recently released music for a full-length documentary The Art of Listening. The pieces were created live in a studio while he watched scenes from the film. The Art of Listening soundtrack is a collection of 10 cinematic vignettes created to color the scenes of the feature music documentary The Art of Listening. As the film narrates the journey sounds takes, from imagination to composition and into a physical experience, the music embodies a sense of reverence for the creative process. Read more about Christopher and his work at


Let’s go Make a Kite

Stuart Allen (’94 photography) has launched a new business platform called Bridge Projects, which specializes in kite-making and sculptural workshops. Bridge offers workshops for children and adults on location in private homes and businesses. Go to Stuart’s website for more information.

Faculty News

Jill Downen Receives Prestigious International GrantJill Downen2

The Santo Foundation has named Jill Downen, assistant professor and acting chair of sculpture, one of five top grant recipients. Downen will use the award to further her studio practice and current projects. The international call for entry yielded approximately 800 diversified candidates from 33 states of the United States and nearly 40 different countries. Congratulations, Jill!