President of Kansas City Art Institute to retire in June 2011

17 March 2010

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (March 17, 2010) — Kathleen Collins, president of the Kansas City Art Institute since 1996, today announced she will retire as of June 30, 2011. At the time of her retirement, Collins will have served as president of the college for 15 years, longer than any other president in the Art Institute’s 125-year history.

“This has not been an easy decision,” Collins, 65, said. “KCAI is an extraordinary place. I have been fortunate to have played a role in stabilizing the college so that it could begin to grow and thrive in new ways. The college is well positioned to attract a talented and accomplished person who can provide the leadership for the next major phase of growth and development.”

Gary Gradinger, chairman of the college’s board of trustees, lauded KCAI’s many areas of progress under Collins’ leadership, emphasizing its current financial stability, the transformation of the campus, academic excellence and community outreach. He also expressed gratitude for her decision to announce now her intention to retire more than a year from now, which allows the board ample time to conduct a thoughtful, deliberate process to identify a successor.

“The work that KCAI has accomplished under the leadership of President Collins successfully positions the college to seek a successor who can lead the college through the upcoming decade and beyond,” Gradinger said. “I know I can speak for the whole board in recognizing her many accomplishments during these past 14 years.”

Gradinger said the board has worked closely with Collins over the years to move the college from a difficult deficit position to one of financial stability. He noted that in 2005, longtime board member Barbara Marshall responded to the college’s stabilized position by offering a $10 million challenge grant to double the value of the endowment, which he said has been critical to the long-term financial health of KCAI. The college met the challenge within two years.

“President Collins has spearheaded one major Master Planning process and now is leading a second major Master Planning process that will provide the blueprint for continuing to renew and expand KCAI’s campus well into the future,” Gradinger said, adding that in the first 12 years of her presidency, the campus added $29 million in renovations and new buildings.

Under Collins’ leadership, the college reorganized into four schools: the School of the Foundation Year, the School of Fine Arts, the School of Design and the School of Liberal Arts. New curricular planning and program development flowed from the combined work of faculty, administration and the president, leading to the launch of an animation major, the restructuring of the graphic design department and the planned launch of a new digital media major, among other curricular changes and additions. Enrollment has increased over time from a particularly difficult downward swing, and the college is now able to plan for increased growth in enrollment, programs and facilities, Gradinger said.

“Inspired by President Collins’ vision, the college has literally taken down walls and turned its attention to reaching out and contributing to the community through initiatives such as its Community Arts and Service Learning certificate program, the Art in the Loop project, the Brush Creek Community Rain Garden and many others,” Gradinger said. 

Asked which of her many accomplishments give her the greatest pride, Collins mentioned the creation of the H&R Block Artspace, as well as its programming, which has been developed over the last 10 years. She noted the Artspace, located at 16 E. 43rd St., signified a reaching out beyond the main campus at 4415 Warwick Blvd. and was the first important building project undertaken during her tenure. She also cited the development of the Jannes Library and Learning Center, which opened in 2002, as well as the Dodge Painting Building, which opened in 2006.

Gradinger said the board of trustees will appoint a search committee comprised of trustees plus representation from the faculty and administration to begin a national search process to identify Collins’ replacement. “The search process to identify this individual will entail thoughtful discussion about the future of KCAI,” Gradinger said. “Throughout the coming months, we will maintain a steady momentum, and the college will continue to build on the accomplishments of the past decade and a half.”

Contact: Anne Canfield, 816-802-3426 or