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This site was once the location of the YWCA Building, constructed in 1911. The Fine Arts institute of Kansas City, now known as the Kansas City Art Institute operated out of this location in offices on the 6th floor for many years. It was here in 1915, that famed animator Walt Disney had his first formal art instruction while attending Saturday art classes. The building was razed for an urban renewal project and is now the site of a surface parking lot.

The YWCA Building behind the Brailey Building c. 1922. Courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library

YWCA building

A gallery in the Fine Arts Institute of Kansas City at the YWCA Building. Courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.

art gallery

A photo of young Walt Disney.

Walt Disney

An photo of young Walt Disney c.1918, dressed in uniform for the Red Cross.

Walt Disney

The Browning, King and Co. Building was located at the northeast corner of Grand and 11th Street. The YWCA building is shown in the background.

Building, Urban design, Font, Facade

In 1885, a group of twenty Kansas City artists formed the first organized art effort in the city called the Sketch Club. They came together to create and talk about art which helped develop and incorporate the Kansas City Art Association and School of Design a few years later. This led to the establishment of the Fine Arts Institute of Kansas City in 1907, known today as Kansas City Art Institute. According to the 1911 American Art Annual, the Institutes purpose was to secure a fine arts museum to the city, "to collect, preserve and exhibit objects of art; conduct schools for instruction in drawing, painting, modeling, sculpture, illustrations, decorative designing, architecture, and the arts and crafts, and by other appropriate means to further the cause of Art.”

The Fine Arts Institute of Kansas City operated at several locations in its time. Around 1911 they moved into offices on the 6th floor of the newly built YWCA Building on McGee. They offered a variety of course instruction and a gallery which held exhibits that would rotate categories by month. From 1914 to 1918 during the first World War, students and faculty helped raise funds for the Red Cross by selling their artwork. They also created posters to promote enlistment for the United States Navy. 

As early as 1914, the institute started offering public classes on Saturdays. Famed animator Walt Disney, still just a teenager, attended art classes here from 1915 to 1917. The following is the Saturday class schedule from the 1914-1915 Academic Catalog:

Saturday Classes. 
Life Class, 11 half days, one term, 11 weeks - - $9.00
Juvenile Class, 11 half days, one term, 11 weeks - 5.00
Elementary Class, 11 half days, one term, 11 weeks 5.00
Matriculation fee of $2.00 must be paid by all new students on entering the school. 
A charge of 50 cents a term is made for rental of lockers. 
Payments must be made in advance. 
Saturday Juvenile Classes. 
Elementary drawing and painting. 
Drawing from life for those who have had a course of elementary work. 
In addition to the formal instruction, pupils are encouraged to visit the gallery and library. Thus their understanding and love of art are unconsciously trained and developed. 
Adults may join the Saturday classes.

In 1920, the Fine Arts Institute of Kansas City changed its name to the Kansas City Art Institute. The institution finally found a permanent home in 1927 when businessman and philanthropist Howard Vanderslice purchased and donated a large residence at 4415 Warwick Boulevard. The mansion was home to the late August Meyer, a successful mining engineer and the first President to the Parks Commission (1892). It was renamed Vanderslice Hall and now serves as the school's administrative offices.

School Circular, Fine Arts Institute Kansas City, Missouri 1914-15, Internet Archive. Accessed March 15th 2022.

Stahly, Nichole. Kansas City Art Institute, The Clio. March 9th 2022. Accessed March 15th 2022.

American Federation of Arts. American Art Directory. Volume 9. R. R. Bowker Company, 1911.

Nightingale Levy, Florence. American Federation of Arts. American Art Annual. Volume 13. MacMillan Company, 1917.

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