Pictured: KCAI students and members of Phresh Prints Co-op work to finalize postcards for "The Speakeasy."
Kansas City, Mo. (May 7, 2012) – Imagine a city that has audaciously dubbed itself America’s Creative Crossroads. Imagine a community brassy enough to live up to the claim and serve up events and exhibits with a surprising hometown feel, leaving visitors wondering what makes the wheel turn. Imagine a college class that encourages students to dive in, pull back the curtain and look for the great wizard. What is the driving force of the creative community in Kansas City? It’s the community itself. It’s the activity and the network and the open flow of ideas between people connecting in their respective creative fields, be it art, music, fashion, food or performance.
The pulse of Kansas City is palpable and Nick Naughton, lecturer in the printmaking department at the Kansas City Art Institute, is not only aware of the pulse but has introduced students to it. Phresh Prints Co-op was born, a student organization created by Naughton’s graphic collaborations class at the college. Students were asked at the beginning of the class to consider the community outside of KCAI’s walls. At a liberal arts college, students typically work in intensive, somewhat insular environments, and Naughton’s goal was for students to develop an understanding of the rich resources just outside the college’s doorstep in Kansas City.
“It only made sense to introduce students to their community and to help them define what community means to them,” Naughton said. “My thought was that if they graduate without this exposure and these lessons, then they will be less equipped to engage in their own ways when they join the world outside of academia.”
A liberal arts education teaches students creative problem solving. It encourages students to ask questions and sparks a desire in them to get their fingerprints all over the projects that cross their professional paths because they have the ability to see unique possibilities. They’ve been taught the art of seeing, so to speak. This is part of what makes Kansas City’s creative community so successful and unique, with schools like Kansas City Art Institute churning out creative problem solvers anxious to peddle their ideas, talents and wares. Nick Naughton’s class and Phresh Prints Co-op is a perfect union of raw talent in-the-making with a rich community awaiting future thinkers and doers.
Naughton focused on connecting students with grass-roots organizations and creating hand-made work, an increasingly valuable resource in a technology-driven world.
“I feel very sure that what we offered this semester added something tactile to the community in an extremely valuable and subtle way. Phresh Prints Co-op created a way for our community to provide a service to artists, curators and nonprofits that is sold at cost, and it is paid for in good will and experience for the students.”
Phresh Prints first connected with Charlotte Street Foundation and The Speakeasy, a curatorial research project by Sean Starowitz (’10 interdisciplinary arts) and Andrew Erdrich (’10 sculpture and art history). The group designed and printed posters, membership cards, invitations, aprons, custom screen-printed napkins and 2000 postcards for Starowitz and Erdrich’s Speakeasy exhibition in April. Students were responsible for all aspects of the projects, including consultation, budgeting, designing, printing and finally seeing their work out in the community.
Pictured: A freshly inked Phresh Prints Co-op product, ready for delivery.
“When the opening happened, it was exciting to see the students out at the gallery and their excitement was palpable. They showed up en force, were excited to share their work and I think they felt proud of their accomplishments,” Naughton said. “Their work was collected, purchased, discarded or smeared with barbecue sauce. All in all, it was a great success.”
According to Naughton, the graphic collaborations course served as a pilot program in the printmaking department. He hopes the class continues as the Co-op. “I have a much better understanding of the capability we have and how we could expand it,” he said.
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.