Kinji Akagawa, ’68
Many people can tell you about Kinji Akagawa, and he could happily return the favor. Rather than a singular source of individual wisdom, he’s a human interface. He connects people with ideas, strangers with nature, raw materials with chisels.
Honored with the McKnight Foundation Distinguished Artist Award in 2007, Akagawa has a long but almost inside-out relationship with MCAD. He’d begun study in design in his native Japan, then was urged by a kindly American mentor to continue studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Before graduating he’d already won a Ford Foundation fellowship and was then hired by MCAD to teach sculpture—with the promise that he could finish his BFA degree. An MFA at the University of Minnesota quickly followed (1969), and ever since he’s been an integral part of MCAD’s legacy.
Akagawa’s own work is called by others “public sculpture,” because it employs stunning natural materials in open places used by many. He prefers to drop the “public,” because he insists on anyone’s right to use and think about art. And rather than making "things", he claims he works on “quality-of-life” installations and experiences.
His enthusiasm for philosophical connections, his focused questioning, and above all dedication to his students and his work have set a standard for the teaching artist.