KCAI Board of Trustees Chair Susan Seidler Nerman Answers Four Questions

Presented by Equity Bank

When it comes to making a difference, Sue Nerman has what it takes. Tony Jones, the former president of the Kansas City Art Institute, described her as “forward-thinking” with “boundless energy.” She belongs to a family that gave their name to the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College as well as endowing the Nerman Family President at KCAI and is passionate about art.

Years in corporate life with her family’s company, Excell Brands, as well as Farmland Foods and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, gave her valuable experience in thinking big, managing people and projects, and identifying as well as embracing core values. Nerman has served on the board of the Jewish Federation of Kansas City. She is also a supporter of Kansas PBS and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut. 

Nerman’s late in-laws, Margaret and Jerry Nerman, were passionate and informed collectors of contemporary art, including works by Julian Schnabel, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Frank Stella. Both Sue and her husband, Lewis, continue their support of contemporary artists.

With background, vision, and determination, Nerman is ready to help shape the education of yet another generation of artists.

KCAI has been an incubator for the arts in Kansas City, educating and nurturing artists who go on to find careers in animation, graphic arts, and fashion design as well as the fine arts. How do you help guide KCAI to keep its faculty and educational offerings evolving as the arts evolve?
In 1885, KCAI started as a Sketch Club and has been evolving since then. The college has established itself as a “maker” school where our faculty are working artists as well as educators and mentors. Over the years, KCAI has changed as the world has changed while maintaining our commitment to the techniques of making art and embracing the influence of technology and the digital world. We have spent the past five years upgrading our campus to provide state-of-the-art facilities for our faculty, staff, and students. KCAI is constantly looking at ways to provide the best academic experience for our students and faculty. In 2022, we were granted our ten-year accreditation from both the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and from the Higher Learning Commission. KCAI is well positioned for the future the world has yet to see.

You and your husband, Lewis, collect contemporary art. Why contemporary art? What led you to collect and do you have favorite artists? Is there a contemporary artist on your wish list?
The Nerman Family has been collecting contemporary art for over 60 years. Jerry and Margaret, of blessed memory, loved art and wanted to buy who were the artists of their time. Fortunately, they had a great eye and acquired many artists who became well-known. They lived with their art and believed in the “Three S’s: Searching for the art, securing the art, and sharing the art.” We recite this motto to all our visitors! 

Lewis and I share the love of art and are always learning about new artists and looking at their work. Every collector has a long list of artists they should have bought and would like to buy. The thrill is in the discovery, the intelligence and creativity of the artist, and the visceral response to the work. We have tremendous respect and admiration for the creative process. 

As the chair of the Board of Trustees for the Kansas City Art Institute, what do you hope to achieve during your tenure?
As board chair at KCAI, my primary goal is to make KCAI the best college of art and design in the country and prepare our students for the opportunities that await them upon graduation. I am thrilled to have Ruki Neuhold-Ravikumar as our Nerman Family President. Under her leadership, we will begin a new strategic planning process—along with our faculty, staff, students, board, donors, and the community—to reshape our approach for the future. My job is to surround myself with smart, creative thinkers and embrace new ideas. Our KCAI campus is full of intelligent, creative problem solvers—artists. It is the most exciting place in Kansas City!

Before or after attending an art exhibit or opening in Kansas City, where is your favorite place to have a drink or dine? If you had a magic wand, is there any type of restaurant or food you would add to the KC restaurant scene?
Our favorite place to be is at home. But, every time we are in New York, we love Katz’s Deli, so an outpost in KC would be most welcome! 

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed