These talented students represent the KCAI student body. Each of their stories are unique. But their learning experience, quality of work and personal devotion to their craft is characteristic among all KCAI students, no matter their particular area of study.
2017 Will Eisner Scholarship Award
Gabbi Brandini’s fascination with prehistoric settings and characters and her use of comedy as a tool to explore the darker side of life caught the attention of the Society of Illustrators who awarded her the 2017 Will Eisner Award Scholarship. She was chosen from hundreds of applicants for the prestigious scholarship named after Will Eisner, one of the most influential comic artists of all time. “Receiving the award really boosted my confidence as an illustrator and made me realize that my work has merit. It also reassured me that I was taking the right path by pursuing a career in illustration,” said Brandini.
Now that Brandini is close to graduating (she’ll receive a B.F.A. in May) she looks back at choosing KCAI as “100% the best decision I could have ever made for myself.” She’s been inspired by the Illustration faculty and their dedication to the artistic growth of their students. “At KCAI, I truly learned how to be a good artist, and to embrace that identity. I did not grow up around artists or illustrators, and the art world was completely alien to me before, but now I feel like I belong to this world-wide community. It’s one of those things that feels right to me, at my core,” she said. See Brandini’s work at gabbibrandini.com.
Art History and Ceramics
Pursuing a double major in art history and ceramics has helped to shape Raegen Koepsel’s work, which is predominantly sculptural ceramics with a focus on the figure. She uses the figure to comment on subjects such as narrative, identity, proverbial commentary, and family. She’s also inspired by other visual disciplines such as painting and architecture, and literary art forms like philosophy and poetry.
Her cross-disciplinary interests have given her the chance to develop lasting connections with KCAI faculty members, and she credits them with being instrumental in developing her passions for art and encouraging her to be the best version of herself. “The art history professors are walking, talking encyclopedias that are excited about what they do and strongly encourage student involvement. The faculty in ceramics is just as resourceful and knowledgeable about their subject and equally eager to go the extra mile for their students,” she said.
Raegen is still deciding what she’ll do after graduation. After internships at H&R Block Artspace and the Nelson Atkins-Museum of Art, she says might pursue a career in art preparation and installation, or become a professional artist. However, she has set her goals for her senior year at KCAI. She’ll keep taking harder classes, putting in the work, and going farther artistically than she ever thought was possible.
When you watch a short film or documentary produced by Grace Powell, you feel like you are in the character’s head, experiencing their inner conflicts, obsessions, and struggles with loneliness. You walk away with a feeling that you’ve had an intimate look into someone’s life, and that’s exactly what this filmmaking student is hoping for.
“Whether the piece is a comedy, horror or drama, I try to shed a light on the complexities of the individual and their relationships. Cinematography is an important part of my craft and my visuals are often objects or environments that reflect a character’s emotional state or personal experience,” Grace said.
Grace’s time at KCAI for has helped her discover her creative capabilities and look at herself as an artist, not just a videographer. Conceptually driven assignments forced her to think outside her comfort zone and try new methods of filmmaking. KCAI also gave many opportunities to expand her work experience, build her portfolio and connect and improve her network. During her work-study program in the Communications Department, she has produced an award-winning social media video campaign called Major Moments and has filmed Alumni videos that are used as marketing tools. According to Grace, “KCAI creates a community of collaborators and challenges students to create self-directed that work that encourages self-discovery and originality.”