The Artspace houses and manages the Kansas City Art Institute’s permanent collection of fine art. KCAI began acquiring works in 1885, and today the collection includes an eclectic range of more than 1,000 objects, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, contemporary and historical prints, works on paper, design objects, folk art, outdoor sculptures and a range of decorative art and collectibles.
The permanent collection serves as a teaching collection. "Selections from the Collection" exhibitions are organized thematically to complement programming and other exhibitions at the Artspace. These are curated by the Artspace staff and shown in the Roger L. and Joni Cohen Resource Room. Academic interns have opportunities to provide curatorial and managerial support for the permanent collection, including curating "Selections from the Collection" exhibitions or other special projects in the Resource Room.
The KCAI permanent collection has the largest holding of artwork by Missouri self-taught artist Jesse Howard. The collection includes more than 100 signs and sculptures by Howard. Howard's pieces have been featured in main gallery exhibitions at the Artspace, including "Signs of the Times" and "Now Read On: Jesse Howard and Roger Brown." The permanent collection also features a special collection of prints produced by Landfall Press, owned and operated by Jack Lemon in Santa Fe, N.M. These prints have been featured in Artspace exhibitions including "Landfall Press: 1970–2000," "Big and Beautiful," "Storyline: Inviting Narratives," "Process in Printmaking" and "Chicago Art: Early and Contemporary Imagery and Influence."