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Folly Jazz Series + KCAI Graphic Design – 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago the Folly Theater and Kansas City Art Institute formed a partnership to develop the commercial skills of the KCAI Graphic Design students while elevating the level of the Folly Jazz Series' style and presence. This endeavor was set up by Folly Executive Director, Gale Tallis, and the then-KCAI Graphic Design instructor, Jamie Gray. Last year, you may have seen a great segment on Fox4 KC with Matt Stewart, who covered the judging and critiques of last year's student posters.

Photos from last year
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How the Folly Jazz + KCAI Partnership Works

Every year, about a month and a half prior to the first Folly Jazz show of the season, the Folly invites the Junior Graphic Design students of KCAI to the Folly Theater for a tour of the 118-year-old theater. The purpose of this is to give the students an on-stage and behind the scenes feel for the theater. After a tour and short explanation of the Folly's history, the students are given the lineup of the Folly Jazz Series with little information about each artist. The intent is for them to research the artists and form their own opinions and feelings about the artists.

The students go back and start working on their designs. They listen to the music, play with paper, colors, light boards, and tons of other tools provided by KCAI to achieve different designs and develop a theme. After about 2 weeks, a team from the Folly stops by and checks in on the students progress. While the Folly team is there to provide feedback, they are extremely careful to not provide too much of their personal opinion or anything that would cause the student to change their style or question themselves, "We want them to be able to express their artistic abilities and grow. That freedom comes through in the finished product, which expresses each individual student's style mixed with the artist they designed the poster for", says Gale Tallis.

Two weeks after that the Folly Team comes back with a panel to see the finished products. The past few years this panel has consisted of the Folly's Executive Director and Marketing Manager, Mikaela Garrett of Rival Designs (a local graphic designer), and Brian Henry, Senior Graphic Designer. This is where the constructive criticism comes in. The students present their posters to the panel and receive feedback from the panelists, with the goal of providing the students with lessons and critiques that can help them advance their career and to give them a taste of what it is like to present to a potential client.

The winning posters are chosen after the presentations by the panel. Afterward, all the Graphic Design students are invited to all the Folly Jazz shows. Partly so the Folly can recognize the artist and KCAI in front of the hundreds of patrons, but to also help expose the students to jazz and to meet the artists in a one-on-one setting.

The First Visit for Season 36!

This year was a unique set up. With a September starting show, 7 jazz shows (opposed to the Folly's normal 6 per season), and the process of a $2.5 million renovation (which made the lobbies inaccessible to the students) there was a lot going on for the first visit to the theater for the students. Being confined to the C. Stephen Metzler Hall in the Folly Theater did not stop these students from getting as much inspiration as they could. Students made their way around the historic hall, getting photos from the balconies, of the brick wall details, and even laying on the dusty stage to get a shot of the overhead rafters that held lighting equipment and set designs.

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The First Review

On Monday, September 10th, Gale Tallis and James Maiden, Marketing Manager, visited the students at the Kansas City Art Institute to view the students' current posters.

The amount of work that these students put in between when they first visited the theater up to our visit is stellar! You can really tell the students took this project to heart and listened to their artists and transferred the vibes of the theater and the artist into posters that are truly works of art. - James Maiden, Folly Marketing Manager

After providing feedback on necessary items, such as placement and visibility of dates and margin, and quite a bit of compliments on the amazing work done by the students, James and Gale left the students to finalize their posters! Lisa Maione is the professor for this class, making sure to provide the best tools and guidance for visualizing music, balancing between expression and functionality, and creating a cohesive series of posters, among other things.

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The next visit and the final pick will be on September 21st, where the panel of Gale Tallis, James Maiden, Mikaela Garrett, and Brian Henry, will review all the work by the students.

Keep your eyes on the blog for the final review and winners of the 36th Season Folly Jazz Posters!