Kansas City Art Institute

In the early 2000s, an artist from Japan came to study at the Kansas City Art Institute. She made a big impression on the arts community here ... and it made one on her as well. She shares the story behind "Thank You for Teaching Me English," now on display at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

The International Sculpture Conference is in Kansas City this year. We hear from three local artists on what's changing in the world of sculpture. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

On a recent Saturday morning, Michael Wickerson was tending a hot fire in his backyard on a hillside near Wyandotte County Lake. At temperatures reaching as high as 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, the fire was hot enough to melt iron.

Wickerson, an associate professor of sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute, said working with metal is a great joy for him.

“You catch it, you pour it, you can draw with it,” he said. “You can paint with it. You can sculpt with it. And you can certainly fill molds with it.”  

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

On Sunday May 22, 2011, an EF5 tornado swept through Joplin, Missouri. In minutes, winds reaching up to 200 miles per hour reduced homes and buildings to rubble. One of the deadliest tornadoes to strike the United States left 158 people dead and some 1,150 others injured. 

Joplin is Travis Pratt's hometown. He's a painter who studied ceramics at The Kansas City Art Institute and now splits his time between Kansas City and Joplin. After the storm, Pratt and his father went to visit family members. The scene was disorienting.

How a Congolese sculpture, now on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, inspired one American artist to explore a new style and tap into her own spirituality.

Plus why self-described "adventure artist" Steve Snell set sail on the Missouri River . . . in a cardboard boat.

Guests:

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

When Issac Logsdon moved to Kansas City for art school four years ago, he didn't know the Missouri and Kansas rivers flowed through town.

"It seems like that should be such an important understanding of this city," Logsdon says. "The Missouri’s where we get all of our drinking water. Ecologically, it's incredibly important to this city and this region. But as someone who’s living in the city, I can go most days without ever really recognizing that it’s here."

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

Whether they realize it or not, many Kansas Citians have probably seen Wilbur Niewald’s paintings. They might even have seen the artist at a canvas in one of the city’s parks.

Courtesy Pedro Lasch

Pedro Lasch’s artwork challenges familiar ideas of identity and belonging, of which he has first-hand knowledge. Lasch – a citizen of Mexico, Austria and Germany – became a United States citizen on Inauguration Day this year. His was the last round of naturalization ceremonies in the Obama presidency.

Lasch, a visual artist from Mexico City and professor at Duke University, titled his series “Abstract Nationalism & National Abstraction.” The work employs a fusion of flags and national anthems from around the world.

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. 

Courtesy of Mid-America Arts Alliance

Two young children look toward a mother figure, her face turned to the side facing the American flag.

“For in thee the oppressed find justice and mercy,” reads the accompanying text.

The image is from a World War II poster created by Polish artist Wladyslaw Teodor “W.T.” Benda.

“Isn’t that beautiful?” asks Hal Wert, a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Courtesy Amy Meya

Once again, the traditional art-opening weekend meets the traditional gift-giving season at the following shows and sales, which involve multiple Kansas City artists.

Belger Crane Yard Studios Open House & Holiday Sale
2011 Tracy Ave., Kansas City, Missouri 
More than 30 artists sell handcrafted pottery, jewelry, sculpture and ornaments as part of the Kansas City Clay Guild’s Annual Pottery Tour. Friday, December 2, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 3, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Courtesy Archive Collective

Cellphone photo enthusiasts have a few more days to shape one of the pieces of art in a downtown Kansas City gallery.

Instagram users who post photos with the hashtag #bigamericanpicture can see their images on a computer screen mounted to a wall and hooked up to an iPad showing the feed of a group of Kansas City photographers called the Archive Collective.

“So anyone who uses the hashtag can be present in the show,” says Archive Collective member Megan Pobywajlo.

Courtesy Jahaira Aguilar

Nothing gets people thinking about the college student-loan debt like a carnival.

That’s what two Kansas City Art Institute students determined, anyway. So they're putting on Debt Day, a carnival with games, prizes, entertainment, food, a dunk tank and slip-and-slide and other shenanigans on the lawn of their school.

Courtesy Emma Harford

The spring assignment for a small class of Kansas City Art Institute students: Spend six weeks making art about Brush Creek. The results: 19 experimental video documentaries — none longer than five minutes — screen on Tuesday night.

Most of the 19 students in the Mapping Brush Creek workshop had never made videos until they took his class, says Steve Snell, an assistant professor in the Art Institute's freshman foundations program.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas City Art Institute stakes a claim in the Crossroads Arts District on First Friday, April 1, with the debut of KCAI Gallery.

The new venue at 1819 Grand Boulevard will be a familiar stop to many gallery-goers. Grand Arts had a 20-year run at this site, producing and exhibiting shows by artists such as Sanford Biggers, Laurel Nakadate, and Sissel Tolaas, among many others, until it closed in September 2015

The quiet force behind the Kansas City Art Institute's Department of Ceramics describes falling in love with clay and finding inspiration in Kansas City's architecture (in part by riding a bike around town and breaking into abandoned buildings when she was an undergrad herself). 

Guest:

  • Cary Esser, chair, Department of Ceramics, The Kansas City Art Institute

courtesy Kansas City Art Institute

Cary Esser, longtime chair of the ceramics department at the Kansas City Art Institute, credits a high school classmate in the 1970s for her introduction to ceramics. 

As Esser recalls, her best friend, Julie, was taking a class, and "truthfully, I didn't know what ceramics was." 

Esser visited the basement classroom and saw her friend throwing pottery on the wheel. "I really had one of those moments where I just looked at what she was doing, and I just said, 'That is the coolest thing. I'm going to do that.'"

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

For thousands of years, artisans have been making musical instruments out of clay — from whistles and rattles to ocarinas and horns. That tradition continues with two Kansas City artists who've turned ceramic vessels into a sonic experience. 

courtesy of the artist

Charlotte Street Foundation has announced its 2016 slate of awards recipients. Each artist receives an unrestricted cash award of $10,000. 

The five fellows this year include: visual artists Shawn Bitters, Rodolfo Marron III, and Madeline Gallucci, and generative performing artists J. Ashley Miller and Eddie Moore. 

The awards process starts with an open call for applications from artists based in the five-county metro area. A jury of arts professionals narrowed the pool to 18 finalists, and then to five. 

Callie England
Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Callie England felt sick all the time. She went to doctors. She got her blood tested. By the time she was 21, she had taken more than 3,000 prescription pills and was at her wit’s end.

And then she changed what she ate.

Courtesy NCECA

Gallery-goers will see clay everywhere this month, with exhibition spaces welcoming more than 5,000 ceramics artists, students, teachers and fans who’ll arrive in Kansas City for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, March 16-19.

This might feel a little overwhelming for casual First Friday attendees.

courtesy: Empty Bowls KC

One man has been driving all over Kansas City for eight months transporting hundreds of fragile handmade bowls.

 

“I show up with newspaper and a mish-mash of boxes that I’ve grabbed. Right now, I’ve probably got four or five boxes [of bowls] and before the end of the day I will have a few more,” says ceramic artist LeRoy Grubbs.

Kansas City Art Institute

It’s official: the Kansas City Art Institute’s interim president, Tony Jones, will stay on as the school’s next leader.

Jones came to Kansas City last year from Chicago, where he was chancellor and professor emeritus at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

One of Summer Farrar's first assignments as a student at the Kansas City Art Institute was to draw the same pile of sticks every day for a few weeks.

The task, she says, turned out to be revelatory. 

"What it demonstrated was that you have to look at something over and over again until you see it differently," she told Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard

Farrar never could have guessed then just how useful that lesson would turn out to be in a career that has taken a striking professional turn. 

Missouri Department of Tourism, via flickr

An anonymous donor has given the Kansas City Art Institute a gift of $25 million. It's the largest in the school's history and believed to be one of the largest donations to any arts college in the country.

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation presented the record-setting donation to the school at a private ceremony Tuesday. Debbie Wilkerson, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a press release, "The gift comes from a donor who has the highest confidence in the Kansas City Art Institute, and therefore, wants to demonstrate that support financially."

Kansas City Art Institute

The Kansas City Art Institute's ceramics department dates back to the 1960s – and has a storied history, with larger than life professors who shaped the program like Ken Ferguson, Victor Babu and George Timock. 

This summer, Kansas City firms Helix and McCown Gordon Construction collaborated on a $750,000 renovation of "the old kiln room." 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

For centuries, scientists have looked to artists to help visualize the complexities of the human body. The techniques have changed — from wood engravings and copper plate prints to microscopic photos and digital animation — but the focus on storytelling is the same. It’s a profession known as medical illustration and there’s an effort to cultivate more of it in Kansas City. 

Mixing art with science 

The illustration department at the Kansas City Art Institute is tucked into a former grocery store at 43rd and Oak. At two long tables near the entrance, a handful of students quietly surf the Internet or eat a snack just before the start of a biomedical visualization class.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Graduating seniors — more than a hundred of them — from the Kansas City Art Institute have crammed every usable floor, wall, hallway and corner of the H&R Block Artspace for the 2015 Annual B.F.A. Exhibition. Their work radiates the exuberance of accomplishment, the energy of youth about to break free into the world beyond school.

courtesy: Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, KCMO

This week, colleagues and friends marked a ceremonial passing of the torch as Warren Rosser stepped down as chair of the painting department at the Kansas City Art Institute. 

"After 28 years, I think it was time to pass it on to someone else, so to speak," he says.

Rosser's tenure as chair of the department is reportedly the longest, to date. He's taught at the Art Institute for 42 years, and says he will continue to do so. 

Ayah Abdul-Rauf / Kansas City Art Institute

Film and animation students at the Kansas City Art Institute get some big-screen time – and a chance to see how their work goes over with a live audience – at their end-of-semester show on Wednesday at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

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