Alumni Spotlight: October 2019 – Jori Cheville – MFA

Museum Manager at 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City. 

What was/is your area of study? (Essentially, what department did you get your graduate degree in and what was your specialization)

I received a Master of Fine Art degree in 2013 with an emphasis in Painting.  I received my Bachelor of Fine Art from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2004 with an emphasis in Ceramics – so while I was a grad student in Painting at KU, I was also a teaching assistant in Ceramics.

Although my degrees are in studio art, I currently do not have a studio practice.  Many of the skills I gained and people I met while in graduate school have aided in my career as an arts administrator.

What is your current career or position title?

Currently, I am the Museum Manager at 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City. 

As North America’s only multi-venue museum dedicated to collecting and exhibiting art of the 21st century, 21c Museum brings a new cultural resource to the city’s vibrant art scene. From rotating, curated exhibitions, to site-specific installations and cultural programming, 21c Museum offers the local and traveling community unprecedented access to the work of some of today’s emerging artists.  We are free and open to the public 365 days/year. Always.  Also, I provide guided museum tours every WED + FRI at 5pm.

Luftwerk, Linear Sky, 2018
Responding to the form and function of the entrance hallway at 21c Kansas City, Luftwerk’s Linear Sky features light fixtures that vary in length, producing an anamorphic optical illusion of an expanding, outward pattern of line and color upon both entering and exiting the ramp. The hues from one direction differ from those in the opposite, acting like a multi-colored mirror of each other and differentiating the experience of moving into or out of the hallway. The LEDs are programmed with a lighting sequence inspired by the changing hues of the outdoor skies above the urban landscape of Kansas City: the palette of bright morning saturates the walls that greet visitors, while the glow of waning daylight colors envelop those en route to the outdoors. Evoking the span from dawn to dusk and back again, Linear Sky juxtaposes day and night, nature and technology, past and present, welcoming visitors into a space of the future. The vertical light fixtures installed on monochromatic walls reference the aesthetics of Minimalism, and create a strong, contemporary contrast to the historic patterning on the floor and the ornate pilasters on the walls.  The geometric interplay of the vertical and the horizontal within this narrow, ramp leading to and from the lobby both highlights and transforms the architecture, offering visitors views of a new horizon from either direction.

What do you do?

I wear many hats in this position that range from administrator, public speaker, art handler, docent and more.  My main focus is sharing 21c’s mission and the current exhibition with the public and guests of the hotel/restaurant.  Our exhibitions change out about every 10 months, so I am constantly learning and sharing knowledge about contemporary art.  The current exhibition, titled OFF-SPRING: New Generations is at its heart about ritual and tradition.  21c Chief Curator, Alice Gray Stites explains, “Exploring the development of both personal and group identity, childhood, family, history, and gender politics, these artworks employ iconographic imagery to reveal how we learn to live, love, work, and dream in the 21st century. At the wedding altar, in the family home, or in the classroom, within the fantasy of childhood play or the familiarity of adult habits, these new, old narratives generate a spectrum of meditations on the contemporary construction of self and society.”

In addition to all the responsibilities associated with the exhibition, I curate the Elevate Program which showcases local and regional artists.  This offers travelling guests an idea of the Kansas City art scene while providing valuable exposure for our local talent.

Planning Cultural programming is another important aspect of my job.  All museum events are FREE and open to the public!  These events include live artist performances, film screenings, panel discussions and artist talks.

For a listing of upcoming events at 21c Kansas City you can check our Facebook page.

What advice do you have for current graduate students?

Leave no stone unturned while you are at the university.  This is your opportunity to explore in every direction. While learning will never end throughout your life…this time, right now, you have time and resources at your disposal in a way you may never have again.  The creative process thrives on exploration and discipline and these two things you have the ability to utilize to the fullest now.

Ken + Julia Yonetani, Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations (U.S.A.), 2015
This is the largest work in the artists’ series of chandelier sculptures, introduced at the 2013 Singapore Biennial. Entitled Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations, the installation was comprised of 31 uranium glass chandeliers. Utilizing the rarely employed material of uranium glass, the size of the chandelier corresponds to the scale of each country’s nuclear power capacity. Now glowing beneath the historic dome in the lobby of 21c Kansas City, this work references nature, artifice, technology, and various manifestations of power, expressing the artists’ interrogation, “In the future, what should we wish for?”