125 @ KCAI

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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.


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