Thank You, Denise Lisiecki


For decades, Denise Lisiecki has been the driving force behind the innovation of the Kirk Newman Art School (KNAS). Her legacy cannot go unnoticed.

Since 1983, Lisiecki has developed strong relationships with the community, staff, and faculty of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts beginning as a ceramics student under former Art School director Tom Kendall. She progressed to the head of the printmaking department and chair of 2-D, then interim director, and finally landed the role of Art School Director in 1997. 

An exceptionally gifted artist, several of Lisiecki’s works have been accessioned into the KIA’s permanent collection. You may have been fortunate enough to have her as an instructor through the years or reaped the benefits of her as the art school director.

 “The school is the way it is because of all the faculty and staff. We all changed the school and evolved it into what it is today. One person cannot make an institution – no matter what their position is. It’s the people who work alongside me, who have a similar vision, that make the institution,” Lisiecki said. 

Through the years, Lisiecki repeatedly transformed the Art School to bring it into a new age with new challenges. During the KIA’s major renovation project in the 1990s, Lisiecki was tasked with relocating classes to the Parchment Library, Portage Senior Center, and private studios.  As traditional art evolved, Lisiecki’s leadership also broadened, bringing less traditional classes to KNAS such as creative writing, sign language, foreign language, yoga, and other enrichment classes. 

“Everyone in the art school is reminded not weekly, but daily, of the important part we all play in the lives of the people in the community. Some are suffering from depression, anxiety, loss of a loved one, or illness, and we are a refuge for them.  We have students that have never envisioned themselves as an artist or those who have been coming for decades.  We are a place where anyone can come and feel that there is comradery and respite in the arts,” Lisiecki said. 

Lisiecki is looking forward to seeing how the dedicated staff and faculty will continue to develop new modes of learning in the KNAS. The Art School has been a valued asset to the community for over 97 years, extending a welcoming environment with friendly, reliable, and skilled instructors. Lisiecki is excited to refocus on her own art, spend more time with family and friends, and travel.

Lisiecki crossed paths with many longtime friends and employees of the KIA. Whether they’ve known her for decades or months, she has left a lasting impression. Whether they’ve known her for decades or months, she has left a lasting impression. The KIA wishes Lisiecki the best in her new ventures and is so grateful for all that she has achieved in support of the KIA’s vision that the arts are for everyone. 

“I have worked with Denise for decades now. She has always been a good friend, talented instructor, and an overall benefit of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts,” Director of Facilities Ron Boothby said.

“Over the course of her career at the KIA, Denise has contributed much to the development of the whole institution, leading the School to become the gem that it is for the community today. The impact of her work at the KIA and the Kirk Newman Art School will be evident for many future generations of students and art lovers,” Executive Director Belinda Tate said.

“Denise has been a KNAS champion of the arts community for many years and has transformed the lives of countless artists with her work. She has mentioned many and I admire her. Although I wish I had gotten to work with her long, her impact on my life is something I will forever cherish. The KIA is fortunate to have had her and grateful for all she has done to elevate the success of the school,” KNAS Registrar and Ceramics Technician Courtney Nelson said.