KCAI students turn SOE at UMB into a kid-sized Main Street that’s open for business
The Kansas City region is made up of various neighborhoods, some with bright facades and architectural details and others with towering buildings and shining lights. When we were planning the new School of Economics location at our downtown campus, our goal was to bring to life the familiar sights from the region’s various areas and neighborhoods. To make this vision a reality, we worked with the talented students at the Kansas City Art Institute’s (KCAI) MicroAgency. The KCAI students blew us away with their artwork and created a stimulating space for learning. Jen Houston, senior vice president and community relations manager at UMB, tells us about the artwork and how it helped KCAI students prepare for their future careers.
When we began designing the new School of Economics location at our downtown UMB campus, we wanted to create a space that students, parents, teachers and volunteers would enjoy. No matter which part of the region they live in, they’re sure to see familiar landmarks and lifelike storefronts that get them excited for a day of finance made fun. To make this vision a reality, we collaborated with the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) MicroAgency‡ to bring to life storefronts and backdrops at School of Economics at UMB.
A familiar and creative space for learning
At the onset of this project, KCAI students spent hours brainstorming design details and ideas as they prepared concepts for a city hall, eight storefronts and several background murals. The UMB and School of Economics project team, which was made up of professionals from various backgrounds and industries, asked for the designs to be inspiring, intentional and inclusive.
We felt it was important that the finished designs strike just the right balance between a real-world business district while igniting the imagination and enthusiasm of elementary-aged children. The KCAI students did a wonderful job of incorporating familiar landmarks and cultural references into their artwork so that the cityscape would be welcoming for all students.
Collaboration is key to success
The project didn’t just mean the KCAI students would design a real-world space for kids. Working with UMB, a corporation, and School of Economics, a nonprofit, meant these soon-to-graduate artists were able to experience the excitement and challenges of working on a commissioned project. From factoring in brand guidelines to accessibility considerations, the KCAI students had to accommodate several rounds of feedback, permitting and code specifications and many other details into their artwork.
By working with KCAI students, we were able to access local creative talent and to help students gain experience and expand their portfolio as they prepare to find a career that takes full advantage of their artistic abilities.
Versatile for the future
Recognizing that this space will be enjoyed by up to 10,000 students and will be in use more than a hundred days each school year, it was important the design and materials be durable. The finished artwork designed by KCAI students was printed on large vinyl sheets so they could be easily reprinted if they were damaged. This also allows the School of Economics the flexibility to evolve the learning space with the program.
We’re so grateful to have worked with KCAI students on this project. It was obvious that SOE at UMB would impact elementary students, but by participating in KCAI’s sponsored studio we were able to impact some of Kansas City’s older students, too. They poured endless hours of hard work into the designs and artwork that are now on display for students, teachers and volunteer to enjoy and their artwork is helping to inspire creativity and financial learning for thousands of Kansas City’s youth.
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