125 @ KCAI

Just another KCAI Blogs weblog


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.


Leave a Reply