In 2011, Kappa Pi entered into the 100th year of existence. What a milestone! For 100 years now, Kappa Pi has offered thousands of art students and professionals a group to call home and an umbrella under which success, talent, creativity and scholarship can be covered. In hundreds of chapters around the United States and abroad, students and professionals with a similar passion for visual art are today enjoying the excursions, lectures, exhibitions and companionship that comes from being part of a group of like-minded individuals.
The road to this point in our history has been dotted with wars, discord, changing attitudes and numerous art movements. Born at the beginning of the Blue Rider School, Kappa Pi has flourished through both widely accepted and sharply rejected artistic genres, and a part of this success can be linked to the premises on which it was founded as well as the strong leaders who served throughout the past century. Founded in 1911 at the University of Kentucky, the original concept for the fraternity was simply what might be considered a "study group" today. Several students who were more interested in their work than in the process of actually forming an organization, gathered together to discuss their personal extra-curricular dabbles in art and to provide a few friends to go out and paint with. The idea of scholarship was an underlying theme but certainly not its main intent. In fact, at this point in our history, it was not even a requirement to be a student! As long as someone was interested in the goals of the group, it did not matter if they were actively involved in the academics of college life.
For three years, the club grew and other universities showed an interest in its success. By 1914, four additional chapters had been granted charters meaning Kappa Pi groups were now organized at Center College in Kentucky, Columbia University, Vanderbilt University and Purdue. In 1916 Ohio State University joined the ranks, and in 1918 the University of Tennessee chapter was installed. It was the chapter at the University of Tennessee that proved to be the pivotal moment in recognizing Kappa Pi as an honorary society. The Zeta chapter at UT-Knoxville was the first to specify that membership was to be restricted to students of art with an occasional honorary membership granted to a working staff artist on student publications. It was also the Tennessee chapter that decided the focus should be exclusively an honorary one with emphasis on productive artwork and high scholarship in art studies. In an effort to strengthen and increase the art programs and departments at the university level, the Zeta chapter established minimum requirements for a charter to be issued ranging from the minimum students which must be initiated to the number of art programs a university offered. This set the precedent for Kappa Pi to become the International Honorary Art Fraternity it is today.
It is interesting to note that Kappa Pi has had a few of its ideas come and go over the years. The Sketch Book magazine, the official publication of Kappa Pi, made its appearance in 1935 and continues to serve its membership today. Another experiment by the officers of Kappa Pi in that same year allowed for professional groups to be granted charters based on similar interest and pursuits. The first of these was Gamma Phi, a chapter that was committed to serving the professionals of national renown who were working in the photographic arts. It basically was established to offer an honorary society for outstanding working artists in photographic fields. With the establishment of this first chapter, it opened the door for other like-wise artist's groups to join together in recognizing high achievement in a specific media. Kappa Pi became international in 1963 when a chapter was established in the Philippines, and later another international chapter was chartered in Mexico.
Kappa Pi At A Glance