125 @ KCAI

Just another KCAI Blogs weblog


Thanks for reading!

125 @ November 30, 2010

It’s been a wonderful year, celebrating the milestone of 125 years of history at KCAI. We hope you enjoyed reading nuggets of the college’s history as well as news about this year’s various activities. Can’t wait to see what happens next!


A great decade leads into the 125th anniversary

125 @

The first decade of the 2000s for the Kansas City Art Institute brought the realization of a campus master plan, a reorganization of the college’s academic programs and a new visual identity – all of which were just a few of the highlights.

Jannes Library opened in March 2002

Jannes Library opened in March 2002

Housed in a refurbished colonial mansion at 4538 Warwick Boulevard, the Jannes Library and Learning Center was the final piece in the Phase I revitalization project. The transformation of an historic home to a state-of-the-art library was due to the generosity of Nicholas Jannes, an alumnus and board member from 1984 to 2002, and other major donors, including the William T. Kemper Foundation. Completed in March 2002, the library provided greatly expanded space for the Art Institute’s extensive and growing collections. In addition to housing all library functions, the facility included an expanded academic resource center, a career services center and a 30-station campus computer lab.

The following year saw the opening of Café Nerman on campus made possible by a generous gift from trustee Margaret Nerman and her husband, Jerome. The beautiful J.C. Nichols Patio Garden adjoining it was completed in the fall of 2004, thanks to the vision of Jeannette Nichols and the generosity of the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation.  On Aug. 30, 2006, the Art Institute dedicated the $7 million Lawrence and Kristina Dodge Painting Building, completing Phase II of its $27 million master plan.

J.C. Nichols Patio Garden

J.C. Nichols Patio Garden

Dodge Painting Building opened in 2006

Dodge Painting Building opened in 2006

In 2000, the Institute’s academic programs were reorganized into four schools: The School of the Foundation Year, which provides students with the essential technical and conceptual tools that will serve as important cornerstones for their future artistic development; the School of Liberal Arts, offering majors in art history and creative writing while providing general education coursework the Art Institute deems critical to the education of the students, from freshman to senior year; the School Of Fine Arts, encompassing ceramics, fiber, sculpture, painting, printmaking, photography and new media; and the School of Design, providing professional expertise and cross-disciplinary interactions in graphic design, 3-D design, animation and illustration.

KCAI's new visual identity

KCAI's new visual identity

A new visual identity for the college was developed by Mary Lou Brous, the Joyce C. Hall distinguished professor of design. The core graphic was created by tracing the external shape of the buildings that face in toward the central lawn. The resulting shape can then be turned, morphed and reconfigured every time it is applied. The configuration of the new visual identity – with its shape pushing out into a wider space – reflects the Art Institute’s role in the community. The visual identity is intended to show that the college is influenced by and responsive to the community, while reaching out to it with innovative ideas and educational opportunities.

On Dec. 30, 2004, Ken Ferguson, professor emeritus of ceramics, passed away at his home in Shawnee, Kan., after a long illness. In an article praising his accomplishments, published Dec. 31, 2004, in The Kansas City Star, Garth Clark, a prominent ceramics dealer in New York, stated that Ferguson “was probably the single most important ceramics teacher in America in the last 25 years. He has produced more young stars than any other teacher.”

The college announced in October 2007 that it had secured gifts and pledges to double its endowment to $40 million by meeting a $10 million challenge grant from longtime friend and trustee Barbara Hall Marshall. With the target deadline of 2010, the Art Institute raised the matching grant three years ahead of schedule. The investment earnings from the first gifts to the Marshall Challenge were to be used to underwrite the college’s new three-year faculty and staff compensation plan, and increased income from the endowment would also be used for student scholarships.

To round out the decade, the college brought back the illustration major, starting with this academic year, and is set to introduce a digital media major in fall 2011. In addition, KCAI enrollment reached an all-time high this fall, with 247 freshmen and 52 upper-class transfer students who joined 447 returning students, boosting total enrollment to 746.

Edited from “Chapter VI: The Art Institute at 100 – A Century of Excellence and Beyond” as well as the “Historical Update 2005-2010″ from “The History of the Kansas City Art Institute: A Century of Excellence and Beyond,” by Milton S. Katz.


The Pivotal 90s

125 @ November 14, 2010

The 1990s were pivotal years for the Kansas City Art Institute. The decade opened on a positive note, with the board of trustees setting up finances for biannual cash awards to recognize the work of faculty. Awards were created for excellence in teaching, distinguished achievement and outstanding project.

The ’90s saw the retirement of beloved faculty members of many years’ tenure. In 1992, Wilbur Niewald retired from his post as chairman of the department of painting and printmaking, having taught for 43 years. Warren Rosser succeeded Niewald as chair of the department.

Wilbur Niewald, early 1980s

Wilbur Niewald, early 1980s

And in 1996, Ken Ferguson retired from his post as chairman of the ceramics department, having spent 30 years in that role, shaping one of the most influential undergraduate ceramics programs in the U.S. Cary Esser, a former student, succeeded Ferguson as chair of the ceramics department.

Ken Ferguson, 1994

Ken Ferguson, 1994

You might recall the widespread flooding of many weeks’ duration of several Midwestern states in the summer of 1993. This disaster resulted in a shock to the KCAI community and to Kansas City. Dale Eldred, chair of the sculpture department, was fatally injured in his studio, attempting to save his art from the flooding. For 33 years Dale Eldred had been a dynamic and inspirational force at the college.

Dale Eldred and Jim Leedy, 1992

Dale Eldred and Jim Leedy, 1992

In mid-decade Beatrice Sanchez resigned after eight years leading the college. Her watch had seen the opening of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in 1994, and its separation from the college in 1995.  Ron Cattelino, senior vice president for administration, served for a year as interim president while a national search for president was conducted.

Kathleen Collins joined KCAI as president in mid-1996, bringing a new energy and a desire to increase the college’s connections with the business community, arts organizations and with alumni.

CollinsCollins’ leadership in the late ’90s included a successful focus on fiscal accountability. Through a process of reducing the college’s operating budget and securing multi-year grants from major donors, the decade closed with the college enjoying an era of financial stability, while expanding students’ opportunities.


Lithography memories by Robert Erickson (’88 attended)

125 @ November 8, 2010

Give us three words you would use to describe your time at the Art Institute (and why) :

WOW; Awesome; High point for life

The professor or course that most affected your work (and why):

Printing course, taught by Doug Baker (’80 photography).

The most important thing a faculty member ever said to you and under what circumstances it was said:

“Long live litho, etched and second etched in stone. VOODOO!!”

The best class or project you ever participated in:

Doug Baker (’80 photography) – Lithography

The course was the most challenging and why:

Lithography – it was taught by Doug Baker (’80 photography) is all I need to say!

One lesson that you learned at KCAI that still guides your career:

You can slide down hill in the winter on a pizza box and not die.

Tell us which classmates were your best friends and how you’ve kept in touch since college:

Rick Hanks (’89 design), Lori Erickson (’90 design), James Collum (’88 painting), Doug Baker (’80 photography)

Your college sweetheart:

Kansas City Area

Favorite hang-out on-campus:

the lithography room

The craziest thing you did while at KCAI:

Sliding down the hill using a pizza box

The funniest experience at KCAI:

The energy on campus will tickle you pink!


Artspace exhibit in honor of KCAI’s 125th draws a large crowd.

125 @
Catherine Futter's gallery talk for "Reform" draws a large crowd to the H&R Block Artspace.

Catherine Futter's gallery talk for "(Re)Form" draws a large crowd to the H&R Block Artspace.

Reception for "Reform" at H&R Block Artspace. From left: R. Justin Stewart (’03 ceramics), George Timock and Sue Rempel.

Reception for "(Re)Form" at H&R Block Artspace. From left: R. Justin Stewart (’03 ceramics), George Timock and Sue Rempel.

On the evening of Oct. 8, more than 100 KCAI Alumni Weekend attendees, students, staff, faculty and community members flocked to the H&R Block Artspace for a private reception and gallery talk in conjunction with the opening of “(Re)Form”  with exhibition curator Catherine Futter. “(Re)Form,” in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Kansas City Art Institute, explores recent work by graduates of the KCAI ceramics program from the late 1960s to the present. Futter is the Helen Jane and R. Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann Curator of Decorative Arts at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  Several of the participating artists attended the gallery talk and opening reception that followed. “Reform” is on view through Dec. 18. For more information, visit www.kcai.edu/hr-block-artspace/exhibitions.


KCAI celebrates its 125th birthday

125 @ October 21, 2010

On Friday, Oct. 8, students, faculty, staff and alumni as well as neighborhood friends gathered to celebrate KCAI’s 125th birthday. The weather was gorgeous, which made for the perfect afternoon to have a party.

Vanderslice cake

It was an old-fashioned birthday party with punch and a cake in the shape of Vanderslice Hall, made by Cakes by Cheri & Mike, and featured fashions from past decades, starting with 1885, created in our honor by Kansas City Costume Co. and modeled by members of the KCAI auxiliaries.

Mayor Funkhouser reading the proclamation

Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser came to campus to deliver a proclamation from the city that congratulated KCAI on its 125th anniversary.

Students in parade

Time capusle

President Collins shovels in dirt over the capsule

Students created a time capsule that is to opened on the college’s 150th anniversary in 2035. Foundation students along with local musicians from the Traditional Music Society, headed by Bird Fleming, played music to lead a parade that took the time capsule from the campus green to the Jannes Library where it was buried. Then everyone paraded back to the green to enjoy more celebrating.


The 1980s: One Hundred Years Old and Counting

125 @ October 17, 2010
Chairman of the painting department Wilbur Niewald instructs students in the early 1980s.

Chairman of the painting department Wilbur Niewald instructs students in the early 1980s.

The 1980s saw the continuing expansion of the Renaissance Festival, with increasing success as an fundraiser for the college.  Begun in 1977, the festival grew annually and by 1983 attracted 150,000 people and generated $215,000 for KCAI, while raising the college’s profile in Kansas City.

KCAI of the ’80s saw four presidents come and go.  John W. Lottes, who had served since 1970, ended his term in 1982. He was followed by interim president Richard W. Dodderidge, who served from 1983 until George Parrino took the helm in January 1985. Mr. Parrino served until 1987. That year  Beatrice Rivas Sanchez became the first woman to lead the college as president.

In 1985, KCAI celebrated its 10oth Anniversary with a black-tie banquet and dance at the Alameda Plaza Hotel; more than 500 people, including Kansas City Mayor Richard L. Berkley, toasted the Institute’s “Century of Excellence.” A snapshot of 1985:  KCAI’s enrollment was 474 students from 41 states and eight foreign countries.  The annual tuition was $6,600, and the average faculty salary was $24,103.

Edited from “Chapter V: The Presidency of John W. Lottes: The Art Institute Comes of Age, 1970-1983” and “Chapter VI: The Art Institute at 100 – A Century of Excellence and Beyond” in “The History of the Kansas City Art Institute: A Century of Excellence and Beyond,” by Milton S. Katz


Memories from Dorris (Dollen) Lewis-Burgess (’49 illustration)

125 @ October 14, 2010

The Kansas City Art Institute has been a thread that has run through my entire life. I knew from the day I started country school and discovered the white pages of art material in the fly pages of the library books that I wanted to draw. The family moved to Omaha in 1940, which seemed like Utopia after the drought years on the farm, and I won a small scholarship to KCAI in the spring of 1945.

In September of 1945, the school registrar said I was to leave the dormitory at 4410 Warwick Blvd. and stay with Maude Mitchell, a long time supporter of KCAI and a sister of J.C. Nichols, who had just lost her mother. Mrs. Mitchell had not driven her stick shift car for some years, but out of the garage it came and we went chugging along attending some flower shows and church events. On some Sundays J.C. Nichols and the chauffeur would bring the limousine and I would be included on a family visit to the warehouse where the treasures of European estates were stored. The Plaza was still being enlarged and new statuary was needed. My stay with Mrs. Mitchell was an education in the generosity of supporters.

In 1947 my sister, Josie Dollen, enrolled in the fashion design class and we live at 4500 Warwick Blvd. I was in the fashion illustration department, which does not exist now. All fashion advertising uses photography. There was an art supply shop run by Cook Paints in the basement and I credit the G.I. Bill for helping me with supplies. Someone would say, “I have $2.20 left on my allotment that you can use” or “$3.25”. My job, which I loved, was dispensing the sandwiches and soup in the lunch room at noon, under the direction of Teddy (Ted Larson).

I married Ken Lewis, a veteran from North Tonawanda N.Y., studying advertising. Ken was good at printing and made printing and sign making a part of his life. Whenever I needed printing he would do it for me and when he needed people in whatever he was doing he would do it.

In February of 1953, Ken started working at WOW-TV full time and worked in television art until he died in 1985 with lung cancer.

I did freelance fashion illustration for a number of years when our three children were small. When the youngest started school I got a teaching certificate at University of Omaha and started teaching art at Central High in 1960. From 1974 to 1990, I did court room drawings for television. Also, in 1990, I married a widower, Bill Burgess, who died in 1995.

For a number of years I have been active in a weekly portrait group. Any medium, no teacher, $2.00 fee, $15.00 for the model. Good fun.

A couple of years ago, I went to a KCAI Alumni Reunion and was the oldest person there. My daughter went with me and others thought she was the ex-student and her mother was just tagging along. When the KCAI Women Roller Skaters came out on the beautiful wooden floors during dinner I knew I was back at the Kansas City Art Institute. I was a success at owning and displaying the only KCAI Yearbook ever printed (1948).

For a number of years I kept contact with friends Carlyn Olsen and Madonna Stein but don’t know where they are now. I still hear from Ken’s friends, Charlie ball and Irv Davis. Every once in a while I read in an art paper about Hugh Walkinshaw and know there must be others out there. If you remember me, give me a call.


Liberal arts memories by KCAI alumni

125 @ September 19, 2010

Mamie Kanfer Stewart (’04 ceramics and art history)

The hardest lesson I learned at the Art Institute:

Surprisingly, I learned that I didn’t want a career as an artist. After four of the most intense years of my life, I realized that my love for the arts and even my enjoyment of making art were not enough to make me an artist. True artists have a certain something that drives them – and I didn’t have it. But that’s ok.  What I learned at KCAI – self-reflection, critical thinking, team work, etc. – has been invaluable as I’ve pursued a career in non-profit.

Laura (Walker) Keller (’78 painting)

The professor or course that most affected your work (and why):

Dr. Jane Wagner, language arts professor- She had such a love of literature and she inspired me to read a lot of the best novels in her class. I really became a philosopher during her class.

Other special memories:

Classes with Hal Wert, George Burris and Jane Wagner were just wonderful and some of my best life memories. Of course I loved painting and other art classes, but the liberal arts classes were truly fabulous there. I also will never forget Arthur Kao because he changed my spiritual direction through Chinese Art History.

Meghan Kelly (’02 fiber and art history)

The course was the most challenging and why:

Liberal arts in general were challenging because though I loved to read, I hated tearing myself from working on my studio art.  Now I realize that besides the actual information learned, the class structure itself was a lesson in time management that would very much carry into the real world.


History of KCAI: 1970s

125 @ September 17, 2010
John W. Lottes, president of KCAI, 1970-1983

John W. Lottes, president of KCAI, 1970-1983

In April 1970, John W. Lottes was named to succeed Andrew Morgan as president. At his inaugural address, Lottes declared three goals for the school: to raise enrollment to 600 students and then to set that figure as maximum; to concentrate on the quality of the college’s educational program; and finally, to foster a cultural, educational and aesthetic impact on Kansas City.

Within three years, KCAI was making substantial inroads in all three areas. Enrollment for fall semester 1973 was 593 students coming from 40 states and several foreign countries, with a full-time faculty of 50. The annual operating budget was nearly $2 million, with student tuition holding at $2,200 per year.

Under Lottes, major changes were made to the academic programs. Photography was taken out of the graphic design department and made into an autonomous photography/cinematography department under Lloyd Schnell. He also combined the industrial design and graphic design departments into a single comprehensive design program under Rob Roy Kelly and housed it entirely in the now expanded Irving building. The photography department and printmaking and lithography studios would be located in the new East building, along with a media center, the slide library and the central shop.

Class video project, early 1970s

Class video project, early 1970s

In 1972, Steve Whitacre was appointed chairman of the foundation department when Richard Mattson resigned from that position and during his extended tenure as chair brought more organization, clarity and refinement to the program along with developing a highly skilled and committed faculty that helped the program mature into one of the finest in the nation. The liberal arts department was also strengthened during this time with the addition of several new faculty members and an expanded and diverse curriculum.  By the middle of the 1970s, fiber was added to the curriculum as a major in the newly created crafts department under Ken Ferguson. First taught in the basement of the ceramics building, the department received its own studio space in 1978, when a wing was added on to the foundation structure.

The central shop was established in 1971. Over the years, the shop added equipment and tools and by 1978 had an investment of more than $45,000. The service of the central shop consisted mainly in supplying and maintaining the machinery necessary to perform all fundamental operations needed for wood, plastic and metal fabrication. Central shop services were integrated into instructional programs through a mandatory freshman shop orientation. A photography lab was also opened as the only service administered by a studio department. Its services were required to support the photography program and were extended to the entire Kansas City Art Institute community.

KCAI Missouri Raft Race, early 1970s. A competition between faculty and students, sometimes involving rafts from each department.

KCAI Missouri Raft Race, early 1970s. A competition between faculty and students, sometimes involving rafts from each department.

Between 1974 and 1977, as the nation suffered through the Arab oil embargo, double-digit inflation and the Watergate affair, the Kansas City community fundraising activity suffered, and the deficit soared once again. By 1978, however, the school had balanced the budget, even had a small surplus and made inroads in reducing the accumulated operating deficit. In 1979, Jeannette Lee, vice president of corporate design at Hallmark Cards Inc., became the first woman president of the Institute’s board of governors.

During the late 1970s, the faculty and students began making themselves more known to the community by working with corporations, foundations, hospitals and schools on various art projects, everything from film making to mural painting. The result, both directly and indirectly, was an increase in the number of local art galleries, art purchases and the number of KCAI graduates who remained in Kansas City.

Edited from “Chapter V: The Presidency of John W. Lottes: The Art Institute Comes of Age, 1970-1983” in “The History of the Kansas City Art Institute: A Century of Excellence and Beyond,” by Milton S. Katz.


Older Posts »