• Paul Anthony Smith
  • Paul Anthony Smith, Untitled Dreams Deferred, 2020, Anton Kern Gallery

Alumni Profiles: Paul Anthony Smith, Kansas City Art Institute, Ceramics, 2010

Creating art from your experiences is how artist Paul Anthony Smith (2010, Ceramics) skillfully succeeded as an artist.

Smith tells stories through his art by practicing unique techniques he learned through his ceramics major and other art forms, while focusing on three aspects in his work — memory, migration and home — and exploring the identities between worlds old and new.

Smith creates work speaking about his personal experience as an immigrant. His work has been featured in museums around the world, and he is currently represented by internationally recognized, Jack Shainman Gallery.

He came to the Kansas City Art Institute as an immigrant from Jamaica, in search of understanding more about America with an open mind to Kansas City and everything it had to offer. Smith started as a painting major, but realized shortly after starting school that he wanted to do something more hands-on.

Smith graduated from the Ceramics department in 2010, although since graduation he primarily works in photography. He creates paintings and picotage on pigment prints that explore his autobiography, as well as issues of identity within the African diaspora.

He credits KCAI and the Kansas City art community itself with providing him a crucial foundation for his career. While in school, he interned at the H&R Block Art Space, Grand Arts, and worked as an art handler in the museums around Kansas City, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (conveniently located across the street from KCAI).

The Kansas City art community provides a dynamic and supportive environment for young artists to explore beyond the classroom, allowing them to gain personal growth, establish connections and build a network. Having real-world experience outside of the classroom gave Smith the knowledge he needed to navigate the art world and further develop his career.

“At KCAI, I not only took the opportunity to learn about art, but I also used my job skills to learn the ins and outs of what the art world was. I think it is best for students to not just take what the Art Institute offers, but to try and figure out ways to get experience beyond the classroom. It’s up to the artist to get out there and get out of their comfort zone.”

In May 2023, Smith was invited to KCAI to be a guest juror for the Annual BFA Exhibition at H&R Block Artspace. While in town, students across campus had the opportunity to do a studio visit with him.

“Paul was always deeply curious about the art world, how artists navigated their careers and how curators and arts organizations played an important role,” said Raechell Smith, Director/Curator at H&R Block Artspace said. “Paul quickly became embedded in the art community in Kansas City and always seemed to be at the center of the most interesting things that were going on. He’s part of a dynamic community of amazing artists in New York and now it’s his turn to introduce KCAI and the Artspace to a lot of new work and new artists, giving back to students in the same way he benefited from learning about contemporary art and artists when he was here and getting started.”

For the past several years, Smith has maintained a successful studio practice based in New York City. His practice celebrates the rich, complex histories of the post-colonial Caribbean and its people. He has had solo exhibitions all over the world including the Jack Shainman Gallery (New York, NY), Brand New Gallery (Milan, Italy), The McKinney Avenue Contemporary (Dallas, TX), the Blaffer Art Museum (Houston, TX), Atlanta Contemporary (Atlanta, GA).

In 2022, Smith’s solo exhibition, Searching, at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art opened in Kansas City, Mo. Follow him on Instagram, @paulanthonysmithstudio, or visit his website at www.jackshainman.com/artists/paul_anthony_smith.

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