Kansas City Art Institute Alumnus Wins $50,000 Award

20 January 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Jan. 20, 2011) – Kansas City Art Institute alumnus Akio Takamori was recently awarded a $50,000 USA Fellow grant from the United States Artists Foundation. The USA Fellow grants are annually distributed to innovative performing, visual, media and literary artists across the country. Takamori’s hand-painted ceramic sculptures of standing, seated or sleeping human figures are often drawn from childhood memories of small-village life in Japan and are said to “evoke an eerie sense of reality and presence.”

“At the USA award ceremony, the foundation mentioned that most people recognize the importance of the arts in our society. Ironically, on the other hand, people do not recognize the importance of the artist,” Takamori said. “The USA Foundation awards grants in many disciplines – literature, music, dance, theater arts, visual arts, media, architecture and design and crafts and traditional arts. It is great idea to honor the hardworking creative people behind all the arts. The grant is not only financial but also a great moral support.”

Takamori said the fellowship will help support his inclusion in a number of international exhibitions being planned, including a one-person exhibition in Switzerland this fall.

“I like to look at my work in the different environments outside of the United States, and to be able to travel is very important to me,” he said.

United States Artists, a national nonprofit organization, began its USA Fellows program in 2005. The foundation recognizes the need for funding by a vast majority of artists who otherwise would sacrifice working in their chosen field or following their artistic calling due to lack of financial sustainability. The Boston Globe called the organization a “sound, unapologetic investment in the nation’s artistic soul.”

Takamori is the third graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute ceramics program who has been named a USA Felllow. Sarah Jaeger (’85 ceramics) was a United States Artists Target Fellow in 2006, and Richard Notkin (’70 ceramics) was a USA Fellow in 2008.

Takamori grew up on Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan and came to the United States in 1974 to study with Ken Ferguson, then chair of the KCAI ceramics program. Before receiving his B.F.A. in ceramics from KCAI in 1976, Takamori apprenticed with a traditional folk potter in Tokyo, where he briefly studied at the Musashino Art University. Takamori received his M.F.A. degree from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1978 and now lives in Seattle, where he has a private studio and teaches at the University of Washington. He has been awarded three National Endowment for the Arts grants, and his work is represented in public collections all over the world, including at the Seattle Art Museum, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburg, Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan.

About the Kansas City Art Institute

The Kansas City Art Institute 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. The college also offers certificate programs in Community Arts and Service Learning 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 the 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.

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For more information, contact Cat Szalkowski at cszalkowski@kcai.edu or 816-802-3458.