press release

"America Starts Here" continues through Sept. 29 at the H&R Block Artspace KANSAS CITY, Mo. (June 27, 2007) - "America Starts Here: Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler" celebrates a decade-long collaboration (1985-1995) between two Kansas City Art Institute alumni. The exhibition of 20 of their works opened June 8 and continues through Sept. 29 at the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute.

"Ericson and Ziegler produced some of the most profound and influential conceptual art projects of the time, ranging from important public projects and site-specific installations to drawings and mixed media sculptures," said Raechell Smith, curator of the Artspace. "They redefined public art in a way that was welcoming to a diverse set of communities and devised projects that altered sites subtly, using poetic language and wit to illuminate mainstream American contexts and highlight individual community issues."

Ericson, who died in 1995 at age 39, and Ziegler both graduated from KCAI in 1978 with Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in sculpture. "America Starts Here" is the first retrospective exhibition of their career, providing a critical analysis of the artists' still under-appreciated position in the history of 20th century art, Smith said. The exhibition includes sculpture, installations, models and video documents of site-specific works.

Organized by Bill Arning, curator of the MIT List Visual Arts Center, and Ian Berry, associate director for curatorial affairs and curator of The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, in collaboration with Ziegler, the exhibition is a joint project of the MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Tang Teaching Museum.

Ericson and Ziegler worked together from the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s, producing mostly installations and outdoor projects. Their work combines time periods and concepts in pieces such as "Camouflaged History," a house painted in the style of United States Army camouflage, using only paints in colors that a local preservation group deemed historic.

Arning said Ericson and Ziegler took a subtler approach at a time when many contemporary artists, such as Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons, were intentionally shocking the art world and its viewers. He described their work as having a "gentle, generous poetic sensibility."

He pointed out that the artists used humble materials like paint or glass jars to approach lofty ideas, creating "works that added resources to the community rather than depleting them."

Arning worked with Ericson and Ziegler early on in both his career and their collaboration and was impressed with their work. After Ericson's death from cancer, there was less promotion of the artists' work. Arning hopes "America Starts Here" will help reignite interest in these two important American artists.

The exhibition has traveled from the Tang Teaching Museum to the MIT List Visual Art Center and the Austin Museum of Art in Texas. From Kansas City it will travel to the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

In conjunction with the exhibition, MIT Press has published a comprehensive 216-page catalog of Ericson and Ziegler's work, filled with images of the projects and installations from their collaboration as well as writings from many of the original curators of their shows.

"Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler: America Starts Here" was jointly organized by the MIT List Visual Arts Center and The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. This exhibition has been generously sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency; Peter Norton Family Foundation; The Judith Rothschild Foundation (given in recognition of Kate Ericson); and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. In Kansas City, generous support has been received from the Richard J. Stern Foundation; the H&R Block Foundation; the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; and individual private contributions.

About the Artspace: The H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute is dedicated to presenting quality exhibitions of contemporary art and a range of public programs for a growing audience of students, educators, artists, arts enthusiasts and the general public. The Artspace is located at 16 E. 43rd St., one block east of Main Street, in Kansas City, Mo. Public hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, visit

About the Kansas City Art Institute: The Kansas City Art Institute is a private, independent four-year college of art and design, awarding the bachelor of fine arts degree with majors in animation, art history, ceramics, fiber, graphic design, illustration, interdisciplinary arts, new media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and studio art with an emphasis on creative writing. The college also offers evening, weekend and summer classes in art, design, multimedia studies and desktop publishing for children, youth and adults. Founded in 1885, KCAI is Kansas City's oldest arts organization.

America Starts Here: Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler
Kuratoren: Bill Arning, Ian Berry

09.02.09 - 09.04.06 MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge / MA
10.02.07 - 06.05.07 Austin Museum of Art, Austin
08.06.07 - 29.09.07 Kansas City Art Institute - H&R Block Artspace
10.11.07 - 12.01.08 Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati