We have so many successful alumni that we can’t possibly share all of their stories but you can read about a few KCAI grads we’ve chosen to spotlight here.

Kansas City Art Institute

Nick Cave in studio (2015) by Nick CaveKansas City Art Institute

Nick Cave

Class of '82 Fiber Stephanie and Bill Sick Professor of Fashion Body and Garment Chair at SAIC

Sojourns (2013) by Nick CaveKansas City Art Institute

In addition to teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Nick is a performer and fashion designer of world-wide acclaim. His sculptures are composites of artifacts the artist has gathered from swap meets and flea markets and invoke discussion about important issues of gender, race and class.

Soundsuit (2011) by Nick CaveKansas City Art Institute

Nick is celebrated for his Soundsuits, which are elaborately designed assemblages of unexpected materials that emit sounds as the person wearing them moves. His work has been featured in numerous publications and displayed in art museums around the world.

Sojourn (2013) by Nick CaveKansas City Art Institute

"My professors challenged me, which allowed me to build trust in myself and to have a point of view – to have the confidence and the belief that I could turn this into a serious career. The school was a pivotal moment in my career.”

Roberto Lugo (2014) by Roberto LugoKansas City Art Institute

Roberto Lugo

'12 Ceramics

Teapot (2016) by Roberto LugoKansas City Art Institute

Born and raised in Philadelphia as the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, Roberto Lugo is a studio artist and faculty member at Temple University, Tyler School of Art. He completed his MFA at Penn State and has work in the collections of the High Museum and Philadelphia Museum. He describes himself as "a potter, activist, culture-maker, rapper, poet and educator."

Roberto Lugo (2018) by Roberto LugoKansas City Art Institute

"I am from the ghetto; Self-referentially, I am a ghetto potter. The word 'Ghetto' can be seen as negative, but I equate it with the word 'resourceful.'"

KC Urban Youth Academy (2017) by Phil ShaferKansas City Art Institute

Phil Shafer aka Sike Style

Class of ‘00 Photo New Media.

Wake Up and Live (2018) by Phil ShaferKansas City Art Institute

Phil Shafer, aka Sike Style, channels his creative energy in many ways. For over 15 years, he has run his successful art business; Sike Style Industries. His creative practice includes fine art paintings, 2D design and print graphics. His love of street art and graffiti has lead him to community and corporate projects as a muralist. Murals allow Shafer to transform bland or vandalized surfaces with colorful, positive and uplifting imagery that inspire and create dialogue.

When working with clients, Shafer is able to blend his style with brand standards and create welcome and vibrant artwork for offices, living spaces and school alike. Shafer was awarded the 2017 KC Urban Hero Award, and ArtsKC Inspiration Grant in conjunction with an international mural project in Kingston, Jamaica. Shafer hopes to continue expanding his style, brand and art to wish-list projects and international clients.

Sike Style mural process (2018) by Sike StyleKansas City Art Institute

“My time at KCAI taught me the importance of the art hustle. Work habits formed during late night studio sessions are still with me today and provide that drive to excel.”

Stefanie Kim (2018) by Stefanie KimKansas City Art Institute

Stephanie Kim

Class of ‘06 Illustration

Nickelodeon Social (2018) by NickelodeonKansas City Art Institute

In 2008, after stints at American Greetings and international advertising agency Moxie Sozo, Stephanie moved to New York City and got a job as an animator and designer for the Nickelodeon On-Air team. At Nick, she created the TV interstitials and promotional packaging for the network. In 2012 she became an Art Director of the department and helped lead projects for the team. In 2016 she joined Nickelodeon's newly growing social media team in efforts to ramp up their digital and social platforms. She was quickly promoted to Senior Art Director of Nickelodeon Social, which encompasses all of the social media accounts for our network such as Nickelodeon, SpongeBob, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teen Nick, The Splat and Nickelodeon's Viacom Digital Studios; an in-house production team that generates a growing network of digital series. Projects range from graphic design, film, photography, animation, stop-motion and sometimes making slime.

Art direction by Stephanie Kim (2019) by Vincy CheungKansas City Art Institute

“My experience at KCAI inspired me to use art and design for both personal expression and communication and problem-solving.”

Ellen Carey (2000/2019) by Ellen CareyKansas City Art Institute

Ellen Carey

Class of ‘75 Printmaking

Pull Rollback Circle (1996/2019) by Ellen CareyKansas City Art Institute

Experimental photographer and educator Ellen Carey, who is celebrated for her avant-garde approach to materials, found her calling when she was a student at KCAI in the 70s. She knew she was creative, but she couldn’t paint, draw or throw clay. She was in the KCAI Freshman Foundation program, which requires every student to explore numerous art mediums, when she picked up a camera and the magic happened.

Since graduating from KCAI, she has had 55 solo exhibitions, 400 group exhibitions, site-specific installations, books, lectures and more. Her unique work has broken ground in the art world, especially her abstract, minimalist Polaroid Pulls & Rollbacks.

Dings and Shadows (2015) by Ellen CareyKansas City Art Institute

“I fell in love with everything about photography – the camera, the film, and the processing. I loved the freedom and the autonomy that went along with it,” she said.

Natalie Aguilar (2018)Kansas City Art Institute

Natalie Aguilar

KCAI Class of '05 Painting Anaplastologist at MD Anderson                                

Prosthetic Left Ear (2018) by Natalie AguilarKansas City Art Institute

Natalie Aguilar, anaplastologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, never imagined she would have a career in creating prosthetics for people who have lost facial features to cancer or congenital defects. She planned to do special effects in the theater or movies, but when she saw a documentary about a gunshot victim who received a new nose, she was hooked. One of only 50 or 60 people across the country specializing in the field of facial prosthetics, she’s using her art to change lives. She credits her ability to make incredibly realistic prosthetics to her time spent in the painting and sculpture studios at KCAI. Her art training allows her to see colors and be able to match skin tone correctly.

Prosthetic Eye by Natalie AguilarKansas City Art Institute

“Most artists think their career will be in the studio or gallery but you need to broaden your horizons and realize that artists are needed everywhere.”

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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