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New president of Kansas City Art Institute brings Smithsonian experience, 'intelligence, creativity'

Lauren Bieri
Ruki Neuhold-Ravikumar, an award-winning graphic designer, is scheduled to start on July 1, 2022, as the new Nerman Family president of the Kansas City Art Institute.

The board of directors for the Kansas City Art Institute named Ruki Neuhold-Ravikumar as the 25th president of the college. KCAI President Tony Jones is stepping down in June 2022.

The Kansas City Art Institute will be led into the future by Ruki Neuhold-Ravikumar, who is the acting director of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum located in New York City. KCAI is a four-year college of fine arts and design, founded in 1885.

According to board chair Sue Nerman, the board unanimously selected Neuhold-Ravikumar to succeed outgoing president Tony Jones who will retire in June 2022.

Nerman described Neuhold-Ravikumar as "very innovative." She added, “And I believe she will be the right person to lead us into the future.”

According to Nerman, Neuhold-Ravikumar stood out for her arts and administrative experience at Cooper Hewitt where she manages more than 100 full-time employees and a collection of 215,000 objects.

“The commitment of KCAI’s faculty, staff and board of trustees to nourish the bold ambitions of students to tackle the complex challenges of the world is inspiring,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said in a news release. “I am honored to take on the role that bears the Nerman family name and lead KCAI into its next phase of evolution.”

Previously, Neuhold-Ravikumar served as director of education for Cooper Hewitt, associate provost of education and access and the acting undersecretary for education at the Smithsonian Institution.

Nerman said the selection committee was struck by Neuhold-Ravikumar's "incredible poise, intelligence, creativity and just really a lovely demeanor about her."

Neuhold-Ravikumar grew up in Chennai, India, and holds degrees from Iowa State University and Stella Maris College in India. She also has experience in higher education, having served as the associate dean of the College of Arts & Design at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma. She’s married to Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar, who's led the University of Central Oklahoma since 2019.

Outgoing KCAI president Tony Jones is regarded as a charismatic leader who oversaw major renovations and new campus building projects and increased the endowment.
Kansas City Art Institute
Outgoing KCAI president Tony Jones, who joined the college in December 2014 as interim president, is regarded as a charismatic leader who oversaw major renovations and new campus building projects and increased the endowment.

Neuhold-Ravikumar's appointment follows a chapter of growth at KCAI led by Jones. Jones, who announced in April that he would retire in June 2022, became the KCAI president in 2015. He had previously led the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Royal College of Art in London and the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. Jones is credited with new building and renovation projects at KCAI, capital campaigns and expanding the college endowment.

“We know that there really is no replacement for Tony. And if you’ve been on campus you’ll know that it’s been a complete transformation,” said Nerman. “There’s only a continuation of what he has started and building upon (it).”

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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