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The Scarritt Elementary Project – Improving Communities in Tangible Ways    


The transformation of vacant Scarritt Elementary School in the Historic Northeast district of Kansas City is almost complete. Since its closure, the school has stood empty, windows and doors covered with white panels that served as ripe opportunity for vandalism. Kansas City Art Institute illustration students made it their goal to beautify the neglected building to deter these acts of vandalism and make the building a more positive landmark for the surrounding neighborhood.

Since the fall semester of 2014, illustration juniors have teamed up and contributed to the Scarritt Elementary school project as a part of an illustration course called, “US,” which celebrates the collaborative nature of art practices and exposes students to the necessary challenges of learning to work together. Under the direction of KCAI alumnus and Assistant Professor Héctor Casanova (’98 illustration), the “US” class has taken on another level of collaboration—illustrators engaging and interacting within communities.

Participating students considered their responsibilities as artists when representing the rich diversity of the historic northeast neighborhood, striving to make images that the residents living around the school would take pride in seeing every day. Scarritt Elementary neighbor Mark'kesha Meck commented, “I love how it’s making the community very colorful, it’s not just dull and white. When I go on my porch I don’t just see an old school broken down, I see beautiful colors. It’s very wonderful.”


With the combined effort of 90 contributing illustration students, and additional participation by students from the Northeast Middle and Northeast High School, the Scarritt Elementary building has become a source of pride for the neighborhood. The final groups of illustration students to contribute to the project are currently working to finish the last set of murals to be installed on the building this fall.

The Scarritt Elementary project may be coming to a close, but the work to be done in the community is far from over for Casanova and his students. “Next year, the US class will continue with the same mission: using art to improve communities in tangible ways,” Casanova states, “There are still many more decommissioned public school buildings all throughout the metro area. These empty school buildings are at best an eye sore, and at worst, a magnet for vandalism and blight. We will be consulting with the KC Public School District to discuss where the next mural project should be.”

The time and talents of KCAI’s illustration students will undoubtedly continue to be put to good use in beautifying Kansas City in the near future.

Text by Lauren Seider ('17 illustration)

Images (left to right; top to bottom):  KCAI Illustration instructor and alumnus Hector Casanova (’98 illustration) works on a mural panel for Scarritt Elementary. (Photos: Julie Denesha, Special Correspondent to KCPT); KCAI students Jesse Bonniwell, Brandon Hale, Kylie Carey, and Max Peake work on last minute touchups to their mural design after the panels have been installed on the Anderson Ave. side of the Scarritt Elementary building;  View of the final installation of the mural design completed by illustration student team WONDERWALL;  KCAI student Kaitlyn Jordan adds some last minute touchups to a window panel after installation (Photos: US Class, Illustration department, KCAI) 


KCAI Alumni Featured on Food Network

Image: STRETCH ('87 sculpture)

STRETCH (’87 sculpture) appeared on “Guys Grocery Games” on the Food Network, Sunday, November 20 at 7 pm CST. More than one million fans were expected to tune in and watch Guys Grocery Games in an episode aptly named “Guy’s Unforgettable Chefs.”  Food Network’s website describes the episode as: “Four of Triple G’s most unforgettable chefs are back to compete in two challenges jam-packed with un expected turns.  First, the deck is stacked against then as they create a memorable meal in a game of Wild Cards.  Then, in the second and final game, the chefs shop for a Sunday family dinner with some back-breaking restrictions. (Episode GK1108H) Read more at: 


KCAI Alumni Featured on Guide to Unique Photography Magazine 

Image: Don McKenna from Guide to Unique Photgraphy magazine

Don McKenna (’78 photography) is currently featured in the online magazine GUP (Guide to Unique Photography), which describes his recent portfolio as, “Responding to visceral emotions evoked by the unintentional, visual poetry surrounding us in the colours of our human-made and natural world.” You can find the full feature and examples of McKenna’s photography at


KCAI Alumnus Edgar Leon Davis Jr. (1962-2016)

Image: Edgar Leon Davis Jr. (84 painting and printmaking)

KCAI alumnus Edgar Leon Davis Jr. (’84 painting and printmaking), age 54, a 12-year resident of Hardwick, Vermont died peacefully on November 27, 2016 surrounded by loved ones in the comfort of his home following a 4-year battle with Multiple Myeloma and Plasma Cell Leukemia. 

Edgar and his wife of 28 years, Shari Cornish, settled into a happy life in Vermont following two years in Hendersonville, NC; three years in Los Angeles, CA and twelve years in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN.  Prior to his diagnosis Edgar worked as a substitute teacher in area schools and volunteered as a mentor.  In 2013, he and Shari became entrepreneurs opening The Whistle Emporium, a small retail store in Hardwick.  Edgar’s debonair presence and style on Main Street was beyond compare. The sincere interest he took in young people and his positive influence on their lives has become a legacy.


Edgar, known to his family as “Chip”, was born in St. Louis, MO, September 12, 1962, the son of Olivia Longstreet and Edgar Leon Davis, Sr., deceased. Edgar was a graduate of University City High School, (80) in University City, MO; the Kansas City Art Institute (84) in Kansas City, MO; with a BFA in Painting & Printmaking; and The University of Minnesota (95) with a MFA in Acting. 


Edgar enthusiastically shared his many interests with everyone he encountered from every stage of his life. He was passionate about his work in Theater and Film. He was thrilled to have had the opportunity for his final performance to be a staged reading of the David Mamet play – RACE.  Edgar was proud to be an active member of the Caspian Lake Lodge No. 87 - Free And Accepted Masons.  Edgar loved music, books,  & art...but most of all he loved people. 


In addition to his wife and mother, Edgar is survived by siblings Diane McDonald, Deborah Davis, Allan Davis, Trenell Smith, Danita Mitchell, and Edmond Davis; mother-in-law Eleanor Cornish; sisters-in-law Diane Cornish, Judith Cornish, Diane Clark, Susan Cornish; brother-in-law James Cornish; aunts and uncles Carolyn Gaylor, Joy Kenney, James Fortune and Carolyn & Anthony Aiossa; 10 cousins and 7 nieces & nephews. 


A Community Celebration of Life will be held January 1, 2017 from 1-3 p.m. at  98 S. Main St., Hardwick, VT 05843.  A Masonic Rite Service followed by a Memorial Celebration will be held June 10, 2017 at Caspian Lake Lodge & The Hardwick Town House, Hardwick, VT 05843.  In lieu of flowers, contributions in Edgar's memory may be made to the following organizations: Lamoille Area Cancer Network, 198 Farr Avenue, Morrisville, VT 05661 or Jeudevine Memorial Library, P.O. Box 536, Hardwick, VT 05843.  Friends and family interested in speaking during the June 10, 2017 Memorial Celebration are invited to contact Shari Cornish P.O. Box 1310, Hardwick, VT 05843.


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Go to our Share News online form and tell us about your news (i.e. a new job or business, an award or a recent exhibition). We publish an Alumni Events edition of ARTNotes on the first Wednesday of each month electronically through KCAI's ARTNotes and on this site. If you would like to subscribe to ARTNotes, click here and enter your email address into the "Subscribe to ARTNotes" window on the bottom right side of the page.

Future Deadlines for Alumni News submissions to ARTNotes and to this site:

Nov. 29 for publishing on Dec. 13

If you would like to include an image with your post, please send it via email to our Director of Alumni Relations and Development Marcus Cain (’98 painting and printmaking) at with the following format and content:

• 300 dpi, 1 MB, JPEG or TIFF.

• Artist/Subject name and location.

• Title, date, media, dimensions (height, width, depth) of any artwork depicted.

• “Courtesy of” (who took the photograph and/or who is granting permission for its use).