School of Foundation Year

Foundation at KCAI could be the most intense but rewarding year of your life. Foundation students explore fundamental concepts and skills through intense studio work. Various media and situations teach new strategies and promote respect for materials, process and quality. Like a language immersion course — constant and concentrated — students learn in a highly individualized environment with resources galore.

Fall semester

In the fall semester, foundation students work with dedicated faculty in a centralized facility and studio space used exclusively for the foundation year. Students work in a collaborative environment that is key to an active, engaging educational experience. The term begins with activities in perception and active observation, followed by an examination of the visual forces in two- and three-dimensional design, culminating with an exploration of structural abstraction. Throughout the term students are confronted with new media and experiences that test and challenge creative thinking and enhance the ability to sense the possible. Students are asked to demonstrate the validity and depth of their learning strategies through reviews based on demonstrations of problem solving, creative development, intellectual curiosity, visual literacy and a sense of responsibility to the self and the collective studio.
In addition to the primary studio activity, foundation students will participate in three orientations. The Visual Symposium consists of a series of presentations of contemporary practice as defined by the major areas of study offered at KCAI. An introduction to the Central Shop covers the usage of stationary power tools and an exploration of a modular approach to form. The Digital Orientation introduces the freshmen to campus-specific technology and image capture and correction, with an emphasis on the ability to control both technology and image. The orientations take place, in whole or in part, on Fridays throughout the term; are integrated with the primary studio activity; and are designed to introduce the foundation student to campus resources, facilities and departments.
The foundation year’s access to a dedicated building, studios and faculty are coupled with very high expectations and make for an unforgettable year.

Class schedule for 2013-2014

Spring semester

During the spring semester, students move to specialized coursework in workshops that cement the acquisition of skills and studio strategies through diverse approaches to a variety of media. These four-week intensive workshops, in which students may be placed, range from the traditional to the avant-garde. Examples of recent workshops include the “Calligraphy/Book,” “To Draw is to Discern,” “The Woven Self,” “Living Monuments” and “Photo/Book.”
By developing art works employing an aggregation of observation, visual forces, form building and experimentation through trial and error, students develop a capacity for abstract thinking that is applicable across disciplines. 

Studio space

Foundation studios are large, raw, industrial spaces that allow for a flexible approach to the instructional studio and the art-making experience. These studios allow art works of a variety of scale and for complex transformations of the space itself, creating new environments and unique experiences. The foundation studios are open to students from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. six days a week and from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Sundays.

Download the viewbook

Download the viewbook

 The Kansas City Art Institute's viewbook provides an overview of KCAI's academic programs,  students, faculty, alumni and campus.

Download the viewbook

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Foundation Faculty

  • Brett Reif, associate professor and director, School of the Foundation Year

    Originally from New Orleans, Brett Reif received his M.F.A. degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an...Read More
  • Chris Chapin, professor

    Chris Chapin joined KCAI in 2009. Previously, he was professor of communication arts and fine arts at Otis College of Art and...Read More
  • Carl Kurtz, professor

    Photography, calligraphy and artist books are among Carl Kurtz's areas of interest. His work has been shown in numerous solo,...Read More
  • Jim Sajovic, professor

    Jim Sajovic creates large-scale acrylic paintings that have been said to "seduce the eye with hidden layers and subversive complexity."...Read More
  • Steve Whitacre, professor

    Steve Whitacre's area of artist interest encompasses large sculptural works that explore the estuary between art and architecture and...Read More
  • Russell Ferguson, associate professor

    A member of the KCAI faculty since 1993, Russell Ferguson is associate professor in the School of the Foundation Year. His areas of...Read More
  • Sherry Sparks, associate professor

    Sherry Sparks has particular interest, as an artist, in design, painting and photography. Her work has been included in various group...Read More
  • Misty Gamble, assistant professor

    Misty Gamble’s work is inspired by the human figure and its infinite capacity for communication. This makes sense given that, as a...Read More
  • Caleb Taylor, special instructor

    Caleb Taylor earned his M.F.A. degree in painting from Montana State University-Bozeman (2008), and his B.F.A. degree from Northwest...Read More

The Foundation Year at KCAI

Foundation year at KCAI

Russell Ferguson, associate professor in the School of the Foundation Year at KCAI, and foundation students Brett Ginsburg and Kendell Harbin talk about the college's foundation program.

Continuing Education

Continuing Education

Interested in continuing education classes at KCAI? Visit the School for Continuing and Professional Studies.



Log into My KCAI to register for classes.

Summer Foundation program

Summer Foundation program

Transfer student needing a semester of Foundation? Learn more about the Summer Foundation Program.