Kansas City Art Institute Plans 21st Century Dorm Thanks To $10 Million Gift

Feb 9, 2017

A view of the entrance to the Student Living Center, which provides student housing on the KCAI campus.
Credit courtesy of Kansas City Art Institute

Many college students experience living in a dorm, especially their freshman year. But residence halls built decades ago aren't always able to meet the needs of today's digital-native students. 

On Thursday, the Kansas City Art Institute announced a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor via the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The donation will allow the four-year college of art and design to build a new residence hall. 

"We wanted to design a state-of-the-art new dorm for the contemporary student," says Tony Jones, KCAI's Nerman Family President. 

Calling the gift "an enormous amount of money," Jones says it is "core funding which will allow us to begin to plan and think about what that dorm could comprise. It's not just a dream, it's something that will become a reality." 

It's mostly freshmen who live on campus at the Student Living Center, though some upper-classmen live there as well. The facility, designed in 1963 and built in the early 1970s, houses about 190 students. 

"The halls that we have are perfectly good and serviceable, but the students are very different," says Jones. "The contemporary student is connected in a different way, needs different accesses to technology, the way they live and they eat, their needs are different." 

The college is still in the beginning phase of the project, which includes talking with students and analyzing needs as well as consulting dorm specialists. Tentative plans call for the new residence hall to be located on the south side of the current facility, which is likely, says Jones, to be re-purposed as a dining hall and work spaces. 

"We'll probably demolish the interiors of those two buildings and turn those into studios for the academic programs. It's a win, win, win, win," he says with a laugh.

An architect for the new project is expected to be selected in the spring.

Jones joined the Kansas City Art Institute in 2014 as interim president, becoming president in 2015. Over the last few years, the school has announced a flurry of initiatives on campus as well as donations.

In 2015, KCAI received a $25 million gift, its largest to date. Also under Jones's leadership, the college has embarked on restoration and renovations of old buildings, and construction of the David T. Beals III Studio for Arts and Technology which opened in 2016. 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.