125 @ KCAI

Just another KCAI Blogs weblog


A great decade leads into the 125th anniversary

125 @ November 30, 2010

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.


Leave a Reply