$750,000 renovation to KCAI ceramics building

21 July 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 21, 2015) – The Richard J. Stern Ceramics Building at Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) has quietly been home to one of the nation’s leading ceramics programs for nearly half a century. However, today – thanks to a $750,000 renovation – this hidden gem in Kansas City now shines for the global arts community to see.

Opened in 1968, the original building, located at 4410 Warwick Blvd., featured gas and wood-fired kilns, clay mixers and studio space with potters wheels, shelves and tables. There have been upgrades over the years, but none more significant than the current renovation, which increases access to technology and equipment, improves safety and provides a space where students can learn, create and thrive at their craft.

“The renovations to the main floor of the glaze room and the old kiln area – where students get their hands dirty molding, sculpting and firing kilns – includes a high-performing plaster lab and expanded glaze room,” said Cary Esser, professor and chair of the ceramics department. “At the same time, new soundproofing and ventilation equipment reduces noise and improves the air quality. We also built a loft-like mezzanine to provide a clean and quiet reprieve from the main floor with a resource library and digital studio with 3-D printers.”

The project has been the college’s highest priority in 2015, with the full backing of the Board of Trustees, and executed under the guidance of Tony Jones, interim president of KCAI. Funding for the project has come from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, which gave a $250,000 challenge grant, the Richard J. Stern Foundation and private donors. The college is 80 percent to its fundraising goal.

“This facility will elevate our ceramics program,” said Jones. “We will be full service, from mixing clay to 3-D technology. We are a craft-oriented and fully integrated system of education. We have a strong dedicated undergraduate program that serves the nation and, increasingly, the globe. This renovation secures KCAI as the destination in ceramic arts education.”

The project is generating additional buzz as the facility will be host to a national audience next spring. The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) will hold its 50th anniversary conference in Kansas City in March 2016.

“The theme is ‘Makers, Mentors and Milestones’ as we look at the past, present and future,” said Paul Donnelly, NCECA board member and KCAI assistant professor of ceramics. “It ties to Kansas City Art Institute and the renovations with the continued historic tradition of ceramics and the emergence into the digital future.”

The conference attracts an estimated 5,000 registrants, with an additional audience of 2,000 more people visiting 85 ceramics exhibitions across the metro, KCAI included.

“I’m excited and impressed that this important department is getting attention at this critical moment,” says Catherine Futter, Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Futter serves as a guest lecturer at KCAI and also mentors students and graduates. “Kansas City Art Institute has galvanized our arts community and fosters a strong foundation in Kansas City’s thriving arts scene. This renovation will help Kansas City look its very best in time for NCECA. This is an investment in the school’s ability to maintain and grow its strong reputation. I think we’ll see the Kansas City Art Institute ceramics program outdo itself every year.”

Kansas City firms Helix and McCownGordon Construction collaborated for the design-build project. Construction began in May, and the culmination ensures students will be able to utilize the facility as the fall semester begins. Visiting artists from China will be the first to work in the renovated Richard J. Stern Ceramics Building in August.

About the Kansas City Art Institute

The Kansas City Art Institute, located in Kansas City, Mo., is a private, independent four-year college of art and design awarding the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with majors in animation, art history, ceramics, digital filmmaking, digital media, fiber, graphic design, illustration, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and studio art with an emphasis on creative writing. KCAI also offers a post-baccalaureate program in art education, as well as certificate programs in social practice and in Asian studies for students enrolled in the B.F.A. program. KCAI hosts “Current Perspectives,” a free public lecture series; free exhibitions at its H&R Block Artspace gallery; and evening, weekend and summer classes in art, design, multimedia studies and desktop publishing for children, youth and adults. Founded in 1885, KCAI is Kansas City’s oldest arts organization. For more information, visit KCAI on the Web at www.kcai.edu.

Contact: Caitlin Knoll, 816-802-3458 or cknoll@kcai.edu