Transcription of Interview:
Bobby Keys: [00:00:00] KC Cares Kansas city’s nonprofit voice. I am Bobby keys
Ruth Bigus: [00:00:10] and I’m Ruth Baum Bigus . We’re down at our home, away from home and from the Plaza library where we love it. It’s great. And our next guest will be able to give us commentary and official, uh, artistic input on all the art here because. We are honored to have with us Tony Jones with Kansas city art Institute, and we haven’t had you on for a while, so I’m so excited to have you back.
Tony Jones: [00:00:39] What a lot has been happening. So
Ruth Bigus: [00:00:40] you have all kinds of things going on. You guys are, everything is UpToDate in Kansas city, but more with what you all have going on. I didn’t make you sing the song.
Tony Jones: [00:00:51] We’ll do that another time.
Bobby Keys: [00:00:53] I got to hear about this. I want to say
Tony Jones: [00:00:55] so.
Ruth Bigus: [00:00:56] Bring us a little up to speed. For those listeners who may have just joined us with KC cares, give us a good elevator speech of what KC AI is.
Tony Jones: [00:01:08] While I’m not going to sing, but I can tell you that my favorite music is the song of the concrete mixer. My favorite bird, that’s the construction crane.
Ruth Bigus: [00:01:18] Oh, I love it. I love it. I love it. Cause you have lots of those residing at KC
Tony Jones: [00:01:22] AI. You can hear them and see them at workouts. We speak on Warrick Avenue.
We, we have a massive curb appeal building a new 250 beds. Student dorm being built on site is absolutely huge. And I think if my day count is correct, we are 36 days from open.
Ruth Bigus: [00:01:41] So after the first of the year, it is Hamann and you’ll have students there.
Tony Jones: [00:01:46] All the students in the existing dorm will be asked to pick up their mattress and walk across into the new dorm.
It literally a case of pickup, like bad doesn’t walk.
Ruth Bigus: [00:01:55] Oh, I love
Bobby Keys: [00:01:56] it. They’re probably not too disappointed about that.
Tony Jones: [00:01:58] They, they’ve been peeking through the windows. They want to know which room is there. You know, they’re pretty excited. But in addition, yeah. Uh, right next to the Nelson Atkins on Oak street.
We are building our new center for art history, the Paul and Linda do Bruce Hall center for art history at liberal arts under construction. Right now. We’ll be finished by April the 30th.
Ruth Bigus: [00:02:19] I know, I know why he likes the a song of the crane and the sound of the mixer progress. I think there is probably a misperception.
Why would the art Institute have a dorm. It seems like people think it’s just that place. People go to study and then I don’t know where they think they went,
Tony Jones: [00:02:39] but. Oh, no. We were about 700 students on a, on about 250 of those live in the new dorm, uh, which also has the new Wiley dining hall and right next to the front Gates so that it’s open to the public.
The new cafe. Nerman ah, Ooh.
Bobby Keys: [00:02:55] Ooh.
Ruth Bigus: [00:02:57] We might have to go do a show there. That was,
Bobby Keys: [00:02:59] I love the sign. Yeah,
Ruth Bigus: [00:03:01] that’d be willing to do
Tony Jones: [00:03:02] that. So we’ll get field trip, come up and visit. Oh, we would
Ruth Bigus: [00:03:05] love that.
Bobby Keys: [00:03:05] We should have a whole show dedicated to just the arts. You know, and
Ruth Bigus: [00:03:10] only if Tony will come back.
Tony Jones: [00:03:11] Exactly. We’re ready.
I’ll be there in the front Gates and waiting for you.
Bobby Keys: [00:03:15] And maybe it’s may. Yeah. Maybe some of, maybe some of the, uh, the students from your, from the Kansas city area
Ruth Bigus: [00:03:20] and graduates. So we have this wonderful educational art institution there. Let’s talk about the diversity of what you
Tony Jones: [00:03:31] offer. It’s an incredible range.
I mean that the students who come in their first year, um, I’ve come from high schools and we know that, you know, all across America, arts education is being defunded in high schools. So if they’ve been really lucky, they’ve been in a great school in Missouri or Kansas, uh, our primary areas and those students have had the experience of working in an art room.
But then they come to us and the differences, a high school art room is not a professional art studio. So when they walk in through the doors of our foundations building, which are painted yellow, the yellow brick doors, they walk into a professional opportunity and they start seeing different things.
They’ve probably never worked in high school. They’ve never worked in bronze foundries, but we have a bronze founder we call hot bronze. They’ve never welded. They don’t work on the kind of CGI, high end automation computers that we work with, and suddenly they’re. Given these incredible opportunities, and we know that 85% of all students in all American articles that enter thinking they’re going to be a something, a painter or a graphic designer.
At the end of that first year, they’ve decided to do something else and then they move through the program. They find different ways. Being highly creative are they find a way to create a profession for themselves, for the rest of their lives. Uh, and we are doing more and more to help them in that we, we have a new program.
We do MKC. At the Bloch school of business and the Institute for entrepreneurship. We are teaching entrepreneurship in autumn design. How do you live after you leave? You know, I mean, our school is like a greenhouse, you know, it’s, it’s hot on, it’s busy on this. Tons of stuff going on. But at the end of it.
You walk through the doors into a cold world. So how can we do a better job for our students? And saying, there is life after art school. You can have an incredible career, but you need to know how to live.
Bobby Keys: [00:05:30] You know, and it, I’m sorry, it’s just a, I’ve seen it seen the Kansas city creative community just kind of blossom over the years, and you see that that.
That is a huge missing. Uh, when it comes to the business where the freelancers I work, cause that’s my world. I’m a, you know, a videographer, designer. And if I would have known the things that I know now about business, Oh, if I had known him when I was young.
Tony Jones: [00:05:54] Absolutely.
Bobby Keys: [00:05:55] And you have no idea how, especially how to work with clients.
How do you know how to, how to manage clients, you know, how to run your books, everything about it. And the fact that you can make money as a, as a creative, um, that’s amazing to me that you, you, you actually teach that and yet you’re actually partnering with you. MKC do you, do you see more and more students coming from high school, um, or coming from a, uh, uh, an, and I guess you’d say an area of interest that they have.
Tony Jones: [00:06:23] I think
Bobby Keys: [00:06:23] they find it more acceptable. You know, it seems like, Oh, you don’t want to go into the creative world. You’re not gonna make any money or this. But it seems like, you know, they’re, they’re kind of starting to, even though it was defunded, there are some schools that are starting to push it more and offer a different.
Type of curriculum. Is that, is that true or
Tony Jones: [00:06:39] no? You’re right. That’s there. But it’s not there enough. Yeah. And the reality is that they may have this romanticized idea of what being in the creative industries is like. The reality of it is as exciting. But utterly different. So we try to prepare them for that so that, you know, they retain their integrity, they, they retain their ideals.
They’re highly creative people, but they also know how to work. They need to work alone. They need to be able to work with clusters of people and collaboration because that prepares them better for the real world. Yeah.
Ruth Bigus: [00:07:12] What I think is cool is that it’s the block school of management . And of course the block family has been so engaged in the arts and business, so it’s an interesting mix and meld there, which I think in years past people went, business arts can’t do that.
So how cool that you’re having that for your students?
Tony Jones: [00:07:37] I think it is cool. Like the students think it’s going on. I don’t see any division. You. Now, when we talk to students about what kind of creative industry, we don’t talk to them about specifically going into a creative industry. We say that all of them are open to you and the membranes between them are permeable.
You can move around, you can decide what what you want to do, and there are incredible opportunities. I mean, American business, American manufacturer, American professions, no matter what it is, you talk to the CEOs and you ask them, you know, what do you want most of all? And they said, creativity. Because if you don’t find people who are highly creative that come into your company, whether it’s a production company or whether it’s a process company, whether you, no matter what it is, if you don’t have really creative people, what the CEOs of those companies are saying nationwide is that if we don’t have those people, we can’t secure with the market we have.
We can’t expand that market or we can’t create markets that we haven’t even thought of. So the role that our creative students, when they leave, they’re game changers. They’re people who bring just a different way of thinking, you know? So we say, you know, think outside the box. Our students would say, what box?
Ruth Bigus: [00:08:46] I love that. I love that you’ve got another little new thing in your pocket. You have a new major.
Tony Jones: [00:08:54] We do. Again, it’s cooperative, and I think this is the pattern that’s moving forward. Uh, we have a wonderful relationship with you MKC uh, with the block school, with NDA, with Molly Agarwal, who is the, uh, the new chancellor.
All of this is, is really terrific. So we start looking at programs. What are students want? What is the most relative themes of education? The thing that came out at the top in terms of a new program is industrial and product designer. Mm. So we’re launching a new product design, but it’s a very interesting mixture.
We will teach the creative, highly focused blue sky thinking, not the college, but the reality of being a product designer is you have to work with manufacturers and with industry. So you need to have entrepreneurship. So that’s what the block and the Renny I break. But I also, you need to know how something made.
How was this microphone made? How were these headphones, all of these things. So we’re partnering with the school of engineering. Do you MKC and they’ll teach material sciences, history of technology. All of this is, is creating an utterly new kind of program. Uh, and the response has been. Immediate, the moment that we sent out posters saying we going to produce this, people started phoning up saying, you know, can I register for this semester?
And we said, no, no, it’s, it’s a year’s. Wait. Oh, they said, I didn’t see that part.
Ruth Bigus: [00:10:14] So you have 700 students in a given year.
Tony Jones: [00:10:19] Well, you know, I go back to what, you know, what, what’s happening? What are the big trends? What are students want? 53% of our student body are in two majors. Illustration and animation.
These are the booming areas where students who are really smart, who can, can draw, who can think, who can write, who can articulate ideas, and then bring them to life. So you have writing, which is words on a page illustration. The words come to life and become a drawing, and then the drawing starts to move.
And that’s automation. And then it does it three-dimensionally. So that becomes a Claymation or stop action. Students who are working in these areas are. Desperately sought, particularly by the entertainment industry, which has an insatiable appetite for highly creative people.
Bobby Keys: [00:11:09] Yeah. You know, and I, and I love that you said that, cause, uh, it, it kind of confirms maybe that this belief.
So I used to run an agency and I worked with, uh, animators in motion. You know, motion refers in and I was a videographer. So eventually what I’ve found is that. Those people that were myopic in there in the world, like they didn’t go out, they didn’t learn how things were built. Like those animators, they didn’t care about anything else besides what was right there.
Right. It seems like that in the industry, it’s being a generalist in a sense, is kind of a better route to go, or just understanding or maybe just understanding more of everything within the creative process and the workflow right
Tony Jones: [00:11:51] now is exactly correct. Uh, and the ability to be able to not only be a solo person in your own right.
Thinking of your ideas, but being able to communicate, you know, a couple of years ago, um, I spent a day at Pixar in California, which was fantastic, absolutely amazing experience. And I asked the CEO, um, you know, this must be a great place to work. Oh, they said, it’s a fun factory. You know, it’s just absolutely fabulous.
We have a wonderful time. It’s very entertaining. Um, I said, so what do you look for. If you had a student who’s ready, good student from KCI who applies, and I know you’ve got some working here, so what do you look for? And without missing a beat, he said, drawing and sociability. I said, well, explain to me what do you mean?
And he said, well, drawing is still the fastest way that one human can communicate a visual idea to another person. And it does not involve a keyboard or a mouse. It’s just a pencil on a piece of paper, you know? And it shows very quickly, this is what’s going to happen here. Here’s the it’s toy story, I’ll use it.
This is what happens to Buzzle . You do this very, very quickly and you can compute it. So you have to be able. To draw very quickly, so I got it. I understand that. What about sociability? Oh, he said that’s when you don’t mind when someone reaches over your shoulder and draws on your drawing.
Bobby Keys: [00:13:11] for creative, that’s a, that’s a huge,
Tony Jones: [00:13:14] you play well with
Ruth Bigus: [00:13:15] others.
Tony Jones: [00:13:15] You have to play well with others. And this was a key point, is that you have to work across those boundaries. There is no box. So if you, right, you must be able to draw and then be able to animate. And what’s happening in our studios is that we see not only computer driven automation or graphics, CGI, you see all that, but it returned to hand drawn animation.
So when there’s a student with us all those years ago. That’s what he did. There has been a return to hand crafted and animation in which drawing is the key and it gives a quality to what you see on the screen. It’s not Trek. No, he doesn’t have that gorgeous, luscious surface that you get only from computer.
Instead. It’s a bit rough and it’s a bit rugged and it’s hand-drawn. It’s bespoke animation, and that has come back. So it’s an evolving way of thinking about how highly creative people can begin to express those ideas using all the technology from a pencil to. Do you have a very expensive CGI driven computer?
Ruth Bigus: [00:14:24] How do you help your students once they’ve had this robust education, get a job
Tony Jones: [00:14:32] while we tried to get to, to develop a kind of incubator, you know, give them that training, give them that opportunity, get them really excited and interested in, you know, we’re now offering entrepreneurship, for example, as a, as an actual formal minor.
After two years of working with you MKC we’ve decided it is immediately swamped. We’ve had to offer new sections of this students, and I don’t leave out their parents either. Parents are very, very excited about the idea that we’re giving business skills, but we want them to go out into a community in KC and you know, we want them to stay.
Kansas city is a great place. There is a powerful creative community here. A lot of interesting stuff being done in tech and on DG. You know, we need a big post production facility here. You know those people are going to go out. We hope better prepared. We want the city to help. And I’ve had a meeting with the new mayor.
Um, everybody wants to keep the really best and smartest students to stay here in KC, you know, and be part of our economy and move our creative economy forward. So the more that we can do to help students in incubators. Bridges finding a way to be able to get pots that first couple of very cold years when you leave the art school.
But you know what? We have, we have libraries full of books about the arts. You know, we have, uh, technicians, we have people who are specialists in materials. You know, we have a coffee shop. All those things. That’s an interesting thing. I talked to some alumni, you know, and I said, well, what was it like? And they said, well, we graduated, you know, four or five years ago.
It was really difficult, you know. But the art school allows us to come back. Uh, we can take courses and you know, we can, uh, can use the facilities so we can access our professors and technicians. We think of KC AI as a life raft.
Ruth Bigus: [00:16:21] That’s great. There’s so much more to KC AI. You can go to their website at www dot dot EDU Tony, it’s been a pleasure as always,
Tony Jones: [00:16:33] come back.
Absolutely. And you come to us to, Oh,
Ruth Bigus: [00:16:36] you got it.