Kansas City, Missouri 64111-1874
Advice for future students:
Come to KCAI where you can go to school and do what you love while experiencing the vibrant art community in Kansas City.
Why did you choose your school?
I chose to attend the Kansas City Art Institute because of the scholarships I was offered, but being from south Florida I was in need of being isolated where I’d be able to study but also be part of a great art community.
How does college differ from high school?
College has a broader range of disciplines; as artists we have opportunities now that were not introduced to us in high school, such as a great amount of research and feedback from peers that helps us to enhance our creativity.
What helped you adjust to college life?
At first not knowing anything about the town was a dramatic change, but once I met people and traveled around Kansas City, it became very familiar. I also keep track of local events and organizations, which I now enjoy attending through the year. Also, having a new friend come along isn’t such a bad idea.
Have you had any internships or co-ops?
Currently, I’m working as an intern in the preparatory department at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I get a firsthand look at how the museum handles artwork from their collection as well as work on loan from a few private collections. This is my fourth internship, and now as a senior I have a greater understanding of the time and effort that goes into preparing an exhibition for an opening. It is all about getting that experience necessary to be hired after completing my BFA.
What do you like best about KCAI?
Here at KCAI, I love the environment and people within it. There are great facilities around campus, such as the wood shop. I primarily work in ceramics, but I always fabricate things in wood in order to get a 3-D model before creating the actual ceramics object.
What are your plans after graduation?
After the completion of my BFA at KCAI, I hope to complete a few residencies around the country and come back here to Kansas City where I can be part of its vibrant community of artists.
Monina Velarde decided to go to the Kansas City Art Institute after attending National Portfolio Day on the School of the Art Institute of Chicago campus. Counselors from KCAI reviewed her portfolio, and Velarde learned more about the school itself.
“I was mostly attracted to KCAI’s foundation program. I liked the idea of getting the chance to work in different mediums and explore different disciplines,” she said.
Velarde arrived at KCAI in 2005, and the next several years were filled with exciting courses and project work.
“My experience at KCAI was amazing,” Velarde said. “Going to KCAI taught me how to problem-solve, think openly, express my thoughts and ideas visually and verbally.”
Velarde found the graphic design program challenging, as well.
“The professors expected the best from us, and it motivated me to work really hard to try to meet their expectations,” she said.
At KCAI, Velarde became part of the work-study design team. As part of this team, Velarde worked with the college’s communications department on all kinds of projects for internal clients.
“Working with the communications office was great,” Velarde said. “It was like my first real design job. It taught me the importance of meeting deadlines, working under guidelines and with clients.”
Despite a tight job market, Velarde was successful in landing a full-time position shortly after graduating from KCAI. She spent three months as a graphic-design intern in the greeting cards department at Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards before returning home to the Chicago area. Velarde started contacting what she called her “dream firms” in Chicago. While many were not hiring at the time, Velarde said most called her in for interviews and offered helpful feedback on her work.
Eight months after graduation, Velarde signed on with Critical Mass Inc., an interactive agency that designs for multiple platforms, including websites and mobile applications.
“I really wanted to pursue working in interactive design, so I thought they were a good fit,” she said. “They’re doing some great and exciting things, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Velarde already has received national recognition for her work. Less than six months after graduating from KCAI, she won AIGA’s Command X competition at the 2009 Make/Think Conference in Memphis, Tenn. This graphic-design reality show required competitors to complete a series of challenges within 24 hours. The final project was to make a statement about civil rights.
Although she hasn’t been gone from KCAI for long, Velarde has fond memories of her time on campus.
“I think the studio environment at KCAI really allows you to form close bonds with people,” she said. “My classmates and I stayed up really late trying to finish our projects. We always asked each other for advice, and we were there to support each other through the challenges of school.”
Velarde said one of the many benefits of attending KCAI was forming lasting friendships as well as receiving outstanding training in the visual arts.
“It was the best choice for my education,” she said. “KCAI prepared me for what I’m doing now.”