Personal introspection + conceptual foundation
Sculpture students develop the ability to transfer challenging and abstract ideas into materials and forms. Practical skills are balanced with poetic, imaginative and cognitive capacities. The department embraces a wide range of techniques, materials, processes, and methods for contemporary artists while incorporating traditional and innovative technologies.
Alongside a philosophy that embraces personal introspection, the sculpture program emphasizes a strong technical and conceptual foundation for makers. We encourage diverse approaches to sculptural production including object making, installations, kinetics, performance, multi-media, sound, video, digital pieces, community art projects and collaborative ventures. Investigation and study of sculpture conceptual aspects, historical precedents and current sculptural practice are emphasized. We prepare students for professional art practice in a global context.
“There is so much more you can do with a creative mind and skill set than just work in a studio... that’s what KCAI has shown me.”Siara Berry
Sculpture and Creative Writing, 2015
Associate Professor and Chair
Jill Downen’s art is a focused investigation of the symbiotic relationship between the human body and architecture expressed in temporal installations, drawings, and models. Downen was selected for the 2004 Great Rivers Biennial, a grant and exhibition sponsored by Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and the Gateway Foundation. In 2009, she was awarded a MacDowell Colony National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and in 2010, she was named a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow. Downen holds a B.F.A. degree from the Kansas City Art Institute and an M.F.A. degree from Washington University.
Michael Wickerson is experienced in woodworking and metal casting. He has exhibited works of art throughout North America since 1994 and has displayed artworks overseas in Holland since 2008. He also is a co-founder and co-director of a private studio and sculptural landscape. The studio was involved in a documentary short film, “Fisher of Men” in 2014. Currently, he is pursuing a series of artworks and events focused on bronze casting, iron casting, and clay kiln firing. In 2014, Wickerson’s digital analogue, “Fire Over Kansas” was displayed simultaneously at venues in Kansas City and around the world. This international collaboration was recognized on the cover of KC Studio magazine and presented at Arizona State University. Wickerson is a current board member of the Mid-America College Art Association; a member of the American Foundry Society, the Kansas City International Visitors Council and the Kansas City Artists Coalition. He has taught at Memorial University in Newfoundland and York University in Ontario. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and an M.F.A. degree from York University in Toronto, Canada.
Karen McCoy’s primary work has been large-scale, sited environmental sculpture based on extensive research into the geological, cultural and social histories of each site. She also works in video and photography and makes drawings and prints. She was awarded the Pritzker Foundation Endowed Fellowship for a distinguished residency. In 2003, she was selected as lead artist for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial ArtCorps project, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has been exhibited around the country. McCoy has taught at KCAI since 1994, serving as chair of the department from 1994 to 2003 and as acting chair in 2010-11. She earned an M.F.A. degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1978.
Mellenbruch’s work spans a variety of mediums with an emphasis on public sculpture and socially engaged projects. He has been awarded the Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Award, two Rocket Grant Awards, a KCMO Municipal Art Commission Grant and an East Ninth Street Grant funded by Art Place America. Starting in 2013 Mellenbruch has worked as the lead artist for the Virtual Vector Laboratory, an ongoing international research project funded by the University of Kansas. Mellenbruch’s sculptures are in the permanent collections of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the Kauffman Foundation, The Kauffman Memorial Garden, the Kansas City Zoo, Lakeside Nature Center, Johnson County Community College, Hyde Park, 18Broadway Garden and Powell Gardens. Mellenbruch earned his B.F.A .from the Rhode Island School of Design and M.F.A. from the Maine College of Art.
James Whitworth received his B.F.A. degree in sculpture from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1988 and an M.F.A. degree in sculpture from the University of Arizona. Working in the sculpture department, he has taught B.F.A. candidates from all disciplines campus wide. Additionally, he has taught many intensive summer programs, such as KCAI’s Pre-College Art Lab and Educators ArtLab.
Once you declare your major, sculpture students take the following core courses as they progress from sophomore to senior year. For additional electives and liberal arts courses, download the complete Course Catalog.
- Sophomore Sculpture I & II
- Materials & Processes I & II
- Junior Sculpture I & II
- Professional Practice
- Senior Sculpture I & II
View Samples of Our Work
Like What You See?
For additional examples of student-produced work that displays a wider range of styles, technique and subject matter, browse our expanded photo gallery.
Professional practice is a required component of the KCAI program in which students benefit enormously from insights provided by visiting artists, scholars and professionals. Emphasis is placed on individual development of writing skills including the creation of professional documents such as resumes, artist statements, web presence and image portfolios.
Jobs + Internships
KCAI sculpture majors have worked or interned for the following businesses and studios: Huft Projects, Plaster Craft, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Plug Projects, Dimensional Innovations, A. Zahner Architectural Metals, Paul Mesner Puppets, Make Studios, Discovery World, Milwaukee, WI, BkMk Press. Sculpture department alumni have achieved success through creative employment at places such as The St. Louis Science Center, The Field Museum, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and as artists running their own professional studios.
Many artists visit the sculpture studios each year to share their knowledge and inspiration with KCAI students. Here are a few that have recently stopped by:
Helène Aylon, Karyn Olivier, Daniel Shea, Matthew Ritchie, Miki Baird, Crystal Brown, Jo Kamm, Jessica Borusky, RaShawn Griffin, Adriane Herman, Barry Anderson, Dylan Mortimor, Linda Lighton, Garry Noland, Jarrett Melenbruck, Sean Kelley, Marcie Miller Gross, Charles Schwall, Michael Alm, and Susan White.