Artistically Branching Out

Kansas City Art Institute adds another dimension to an arts education.

KCAIHigh school students in the North Kansas City School District benefited from classes offered by the Kansas City Art Institute. The first students took classes in the fall and the spring semester is well underway. The dual-credit studio art classes mark the first time KCAI has partnered with area high schools to offer a dual-credit program.

“Students enrolled in the program will have an opportunity to earn up to seven college credits while receiving a significant discount on the regular credit-hour tuition fee,” says Tabitha Schmidt, director of the School for Continuing and Professional Studies at KCAI. “We are referring to it as a dual-enrollment program, while within the North Kansas City School District, it is known as the AP Studio Art program.”

She says these courses are foundational in the first semester, while in the second semester students may choose an emphasis in drawing, 2-D or 3-D work. Most students participating in the program will take courses in both semesters, she says. Approved art faculty in North Kansas City high schools teach the AP Studio Art courses. Students completed two credit hours in the fall and another two credit hours in the spring. They may then earn three additional credits without additional cost if they score a four or higher on the AP placement exam and apply to and are accepted for admission by KCAI.

“AP Studio Art courses are designed to fulfill the requirements of the College Board program of study,” says Mark Alan Anderson, visual arts coordinator for the North Kansas City School District and fine art department chair at Oak Park High School in Kansas City.

“AP Studio Art is a challenging and rigorous course that has at its core the exploration and generation of a substantial body of very high quality student artworks, ideas and conceptual approaches,” Anderson says. “In North Kansas City Schools, coursework is expected to be at the college level in terms of its quality in subject, content and form. Success in AP Studio Art requires a strong commitment from the teacher, the school, the home and highly motivated students.”

He noted that content is divided into three sections. Section I requires students to complete five artworks that demonstrate concepts, composition, technical skills and the realization of artistic intent. Section II requires students to complete 12 artworks, representing a body of work reflecting the student’s interest in an idea expressed in visual terms. The works must be photographed and submitted as digital files. Section III requires the student to complete another 12 artworks, showing evidence of an ability to work on a wide range of art assignments. As for Section II, the works must be documented and submitted as digital files. (Fewer works are required for 3-D design portfolio programs.)

To enroll in the program, high school students in the North Kansas City School District must be a high school junior or senior; have a minimum 2.5 grade-point average; be recommended by a school art teacher or counselor; complete the required paperwork for registration and payment; understand that the course will be demanding but rewarding; and participate in discussions with KCAI staff regarding their portfolio and development.

Victoria Robbins, daughter of Julie Robbins, took dual-credit classes last fall and has re-enrolled for the spring semester. She is a senior at Staley High School, and Chellie Cox is her art teacher there. Tori will be going to college this fall. Her first choice is the Kansas City Art Institute. She also participated in a “portfolio preparation” class that KCAI offered through the North campus in Riverside, Mo.

Julie says her daughter has taken all the art classes possible through the district since she was a middle school student. “Tori has even taken summer classes at the North KCAI campus. She took digital drawing, animation and the portfolio prep.”

Tori enjoys sketching with charcoal, but she has embraced the digital world well. “No matter what I am doing, I want the challenge. I want to explore everything and be more creative. I aspire to be a better artist.”

The dual credit class has excited Tori and expanded her view on art. She has delved into using art to express a social concern. “I have a hard time being serious in the way I approach my art,
but this has helped.” Julie also sees the bonus in the reduced fees to take these classes. “Tori and I have had the opportunity to meet with admissions counselor Waseem Touma at KCAI. It’s been a win-win as we have gotten to know the school and the people there.”

Tori says she believes that the dual credit classes require hard work. “Even if it’s not the best, the work proves that I can do more than what I am comfortable,” she says. “We learn to take constructive criticism.”

The Kansas City Art Institute is her first choice of colleges. She likes the smaller, more intimate setting of the school. “I am also interested in exploring classes like sculptural welding and clay.” Her future plans include working for a major animation studio like Dreamworks. “I would like to own my own studio,” she says. As for Jullie, she and her husband support Tori in her artistic endeavors. “We are her number one fans. We just have to work on the financial aspects to get her to college and hopefully that college is the Kansas City Art Institute.”

High school seniors, like Tori, could be the sort of beneficiaries from two events at the Kansas City Art Institute. The two occasions aid in scholarship funding and at least 95 percent of the students who attend the art institute receive some sort of financial aid.

The first occurs every other year — the KCAI Gala. This year, the transformational power of art underlies the theme of the Kansas City Art Institute’s 2012 gala: “Art as Magic: Be Transformed.” The event begins at 6:30 p.m. April 14 in the Grand Ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center. “The power of art is in its ability to transform your thinking – to turn an idea upside down or literally stop you in your tracks with its beauty,” says Georgianna Londré Buchanan, performance director for the gala. She is working with KCAI students this month to create costumes that carry out the theme. Other students are at work in the college’s animation department, under the direction of KCAI faculty member John Baker, harnessing the wizardry of digital media, which also will be part of a student performance at the event.

Guests are encouraged to wear white or include it in their black-tie-optional attire to facilitate full immersion in the magic of the evening, says Steve Metzler and Brian Williams, gala co-chairs. “It’s always amazing to see what the students and faculty come up with for the featured performance at the KCAI gala,” Metzler says. “In my wildest dreams I could not imagine the kind of unforgettable artwork and overall performance experiences they are capable of creating, using a variety of materials and then enhancing these with sound, lighting, animation and digital effects.”

He noted that KCAI graduates over the years have gone on to careers in set design, costume design, lighting, animation and many other fields, using skills they developed while completing bachelor of fine arts degrees at KCAI. Dreamworks, Disney, Pixar and Nickelodeon are just a few of the companies that have hired KCAI alumni, he says.

Williams says the gala will begin with cocktails and includes a gourmet sit-down dinner. After the student performance, there will be music and dancing. “Perhaps the most exciting thing about the KCAI galas, which take place every other year, is that no two are alike,” he says. “This is the first time that we have encouraged guests to wear white or to incorporate it into their attire, and it will be exciting to see how the artists and designers use white fabric as a screen for various types of animated digital projection. Surprise and enchantment are the experiences we are aiming for, in what we know will be a beautiful and unforgettable evening.”

Metzler and Williams emphasized how important the gala is to the life of the college. “More than 95 percent of KCAI students receive some form of scholarship support,” Williams says. “Scholarships help make it possible for KCAI to attract and recruit the most talented young artists and designers from all over the United States. Anyone who supports KCAI is really making an investment in the future of art.” In alternate years, the college hosts an art and design auction, also a fundraiser for student scholarships.

A little more than two months later, the Sixth Annual Art of the Car Concourse will take over the KCAI lawn June 24. The event will feature about 200 vintage, classic and special interest vehicles, including cars, trucks, racing cars and motorcycles belonging to collectors from eight states. This event, a benefit for the KCAI scholarship fund, continues growing in popularity and stature among vintage and classic collectors.

The Concourse is unique for its size and scale in having no formal judging and no classes of vehicles. The intention is to provide a wide range of very high-quality, original, vintage vehicles in an eclectic, informal setting, without the pressure of traditional Concourse events.

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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