Alumni On View: Matt Jacobs and David Rhoads “Playtime” at City Ice Arts

Don’t miss your chance to see Playtime an exhibition of recent works by Matt Jacobs (sculpture & art history ’10) and David Rhoads (painting ’10) on view at City Ice Arts through January 28.

Matt Jacobs Playtime Dec 12 0261

The KCAI Case Study had a Q&A with Matt Jacobs and David Rhoades to discuss the exhibition and their professional life after KCAI.

Can you tell me about some of the achievements you’ve made since graduating from KCAI? 

Jacobs: Since graduating I’ve spent 3 weeks traveling in Japan, completed a 4 month internship at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and an 8 week residency at the Skaftfell Center for Visual Arts in Seydisfjordur, east-Iceland. I’ve curated several shows locally, and raised funds through Kickstarter to support my residency. I’ve also continued and developed my studio practice, showing work nationally and internationally. Some highlights have been solo shows in both Marfa and Seydisfjordur, and group shows at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska, Wonderfair Gallery and Shoppe in Lawrence, Kansas, at local spaces here in KC like Spray Booth Gallery, and of course this show with Dave at City Ice Arts. I’ve also got some exciting shows coming up later in the year!

Rhoads: Immediately after graduating I was accepted into the Urban Culture Project Studio Residency. This was a great transition toward art-making out of school. The other residency I’ve done was at the Vermont Studio Center. I had heard about it during school and it was important for me to do something outside of Kansas City.
Spraybooth Gallery’s very first show, 6ix, was really important for a lot of us that had just graduated because we were trying to establish ourselves as part of the art scene as quickly as we could. And we did everything for it ourselves and made it our own. From the curating, to the installing, to completing the press and getting it reviewed. One last highlight would be, Between Thee and Me, a group exhibition at the Greenlease gallery. It was nice to get accepted. Everyone should go there more often.

How are you currently generating an income and is it art related? 

Jacobs: I’m doing a little bit of everything these days. I’ve worked at a restaurant on and off for several years and that’s my steady income. Otherwise I’ve been asked to do some writing and teaching. I also work for the Kemper Museum on a project basis, and as a studio-assistant for several local artists. Some combination of all that usually winds up paying the bills.

Rhoads: I am a full-time Associate Preparator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. So I handle, install and pack all the work for the museum.

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How did this exhibition come together, and how did you approach the gallery? Do you have any advice for students on how to put together a professional exhibition and be responsible when working with a gallery?

Jacobs: Dave and I shared a studio for about a year and a half when we were roommates just after graduation. During this time we gained a good sense of each other’s work, process, and style. When we first came to work with City Ice Arts, which was then called City Arts Project, it was on a curatorial project called Twenty Something. We put on this show of 8 young Kansas City artists whose work we admired. All the while planning Twenty Something, we had also been working towards a two person show later that year. I think what has motivated us in doing this show was the belief that our work would sit really well with each other and especially in the space of City Ice Arts gallery.
As far as advice goes, I would say try to do as much as you can. For past shows I’ve done everything from printing checklists to mopping the gallery floors, not to mention making and installing all the work. I think it’s good practice to put together a show from the ground up, because you learn how to do all the little things that make up a gallery show. Until you start showing with an established gallery that will do all of that stuff for you, you’ll probably have to do it yourself. Why not try to make it as legitimate as possible?

Rhoads: This exhibition first came into being because Matt and I had the opportunity to curate a show at the space over a year ago. Which was entitled “Twenty Something.” That made familiarized us with the space and because of that we were supposed to have a two-person show in May of 2012. Due to complications between Gallery owners/operators, our show fell through. Then under new management many months later we were actually approached about still doing our show. So that’s where Playtime came from.
As far as advice for working with galleries: Get to know them and their artists and the exhibitions they hold long before asking them for anything. Once they know you and they know that you are supporting your community and continue to make work outside of school they will become much more interested.

Are you seeking exhibition opportunities outside of Kansas City? What resources do you visit to find these opportunities?

Jacobs: Yes. When I find a new artist I like, I’ll check out their CV to see where they went to school and where they’ve shown. There’s nothing wrong with spying how other people have done it.
Also I’ve applied for shows through Charlotte Street’s email updates, a great resource for local and regional opportunities.
Honestly, how I’ve been most successful is just meeting new people and networking. Inviting a new friend to my studio, keeping in touch with friends from school who left KC and opened a gallery, and making a point to introduce myself to curators have all been good ways to get people interested in my work.

Rhoads: I really just got started in this field myself. I focused on the work in a lot of ways for the past year or two. I know that there are many email lists to get on to help: Charlotte Street, The Bemis, Re-title, Café’ Artists Opportunities, and I think other artists are a great resource.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned during your time at KCAI about being a professional artist? What didn’t you learn then that you know now?

Jacobs: At KCAI: that being an artist is not glamorous, pretty, easy, or always fun. It takes hard work and commitment on a daily basis.
After KCAI: Knowing when to have confidence is one thing, knowing when to show it is something else completely.

Rhoads: At KCAI: That it is not ALL about the work. Yes the work is why you should do it and it should be the driving force, but you have to give time for professional practice.
After KCAI: Everything slows down after graduating. And it is all up to you do make of it what you want. If you want to do this or go there, no one is going to walk you step by step on how to do that. You have to figure it out.

How do you keep yourself informed about what’s happening in the fine art world, post-college?

Jacobs: I look at a lot of art magazines and websites. I have a subscription to Art in America and I look at sites like and Subscribing to sites like E-flux and Re-title keep me up with show announcements. I try to read the NY Times art section regularly, and visit museums when I travel.

Rhoads: Go to (shows) everything!

Any additional wisdom you would like to share with students?

Jacobs: Contact artists you like. We live in a fortunate time where you can talk to almost anyone in the world via email. When I find a new artist, sometimes I’ll send them a short email saying what I enjoy about their work and attach a link to my own website. It feels a little silly sometimes, but it’s great when they write back and you make a new connection with someone you’ve never even met in person.
Also you must have a good website, period. I’ve run mine through Cargo Collective for over a year, and I’m really happy with it.

Rhoads: The Best advice I can give whether you stay here in Kansas City or go somewhere else. Wherever you end up and whatever your situation is, I think that there are two keys:

  1. Keep making work, no matter what it takes.
  1. Go to (shows) everything you can as often as you can. Get a job that lets you have Friday night off. The more you go to the more you will get noticed and before you know it you will have met everyone in your local art scene. When we graduated we all go together and made a commitment to go to every opening and every talk possible until we made our presence felt.
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