A Kansas City Art Institute student and instructor collaborate on a project at the David T. Beals Studios for Art & Technology, a nearly 4,000-square-foot digital laboratory that’s now enjoying its first semester of use from students within the entire institute’s field of studies. Bobby Burch | Startland News

Cutting-edge facility comes to life at the Kansas City Art Institute

A 3-D printed animal skull rests on a desk at the David T. Beals Studios for Art & Technology. Bobby Burch | Startland News
A 3-D printer precisely oozes plastic to form a grid that will be used as part of a Kansas City Art Institute student’s project that’s being built at the school’s new rapid-prototyping lab, the David T. Beals Studios for Art & Technology. Bobby Burch | Startland News
A variety of 3-D printed objects sit on a counter at the David T. Beals Studios for Art & Technology. Bobby Burch | Startland News
Kansas City Art Institute president Tony Jones stands in the institute’s new David T. Beals Studios for Art & Technology, a state-of-the-art facility that’s serving the school’s more than 600 student-artists. Bobby Burch | Startland News

Artists have a knack for bearing ideas outside the realm of convention.

But what happens when a creator is not only equipped with the latest technology to augment a medium, but also cross-pollinates with other artists concocting complementary creations? Who knows?

And that’s exactly what the Kansas City Art Institute is excited to learn with its new David T. Beals Studios for Art & Technology, a state-of-the-art facility that’s serving the school’s more than 600 student-artists. The nearly 4,000-square-foot digital laboratory is now enjoying its first semester of use by students within the entire institute’s field of studies, fostering a diverse environment ripe for ingenuity.

Luring artists working in ceramics, wood, metal, plastics, computer design and more, the Beals studio features 3-D printers, a digital loom, rapid prototyping equipment, two CNC-routing machines and more.

KCAI president Tony Jones said that the diversity of technology offerings appeals to those with boundless imaginations.

“When you say, ‘Think outside the box,’ artists will say, ‘What box?’ ” he said. “ ‘I didn’t see a box.’ ”

Jones said that the studio — designed by local architects Gould Evans and constructed by McCownGordon — aims to serve the contemporary student who wants to leverage the latest in technology to enterprise new concepts and quickly test ideas. It’s also laying the foundation for a new industrial design course at the institute that can help artists commercialize their ideas.

The ability to transform a thought to a physical object, however, was key to the lab, Jones said.

“The idea here is very simple,” Jones said. “You have an idea, and you want to make it come to life, you want to hold the ideas in your hands. Here we have a rapid prototyping laboratory where you can conceptualize work on a computer, feed it into these mills and 3-D printers and come up with something that works very quickly.”

Walking through the studio reveals a cornucopia of creativity. With a symphony of beeping machines to offer a score, students mingle amid rows of 3-D printed animal skulls and icons like Nefertiti and the Eiffel Tower. As one student digitally drafts a teapot lid, another uploads a table design that’s being cut via laser. Black and white tapestries rest atop the hulking digital loom while an instructor challenges a student to tweak the dimensions of a project.

It’s exactly the type of interaction Jones hoped for at the studio, and it’s serving a need that his students called for.

“Students want to work with new technology,” he said. “It stretches their abilities because they learn about materials, they learn about form, they learn about time. And how you handle those together and how you can make it work quickly.”

To learn more about the studio, check out this video by Startland News’ Meghan LeVota.

Bobby Burch is the editor of Startland News, a digital news service that reports on Kansas City technology and entrepreneurship. Follow Bobby on Twitter at @BobBurch and @StartlandNews.