UNT sculpture student Archit Karkare still can't believe it. In November, he reached a major career milestone -- installing his first permanent art piece at Frisco Landing, the first permanent building at the new UNT at Frisco branch campus.
"It's definitely an interesting feeling," says Karkare, a Little Elm resident who expects to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree in studio art in Fall 2023. "Really unbelievable."
The installation marks the end of a nearly year-long process, which started as a class assignment to develop a sculpture proposal in Alicia Eggert's Fall 2021 Art in Public course. Karkare's design stood out among more than a dozen proposals submitted by his classmates.
"Soaring," the aircraft grade aluminum sculpture that is suspended 10 feet up along the third and fourth floors of a western stairwell at Frisco Landing, is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between UNT at Frisco and UNT's College of Visual Arts and Design.
The artwork pays homage to the Indigenous Peoples whose land UNT at Frisco resides upon -- the Wichita and affiliated tribes and the Caddo Nation -- while also acknowledging other groups that have used the land, such as the Cherokee and Comanche. The three intertwined gradient blue, green and orange feathers in the sculpture represent traditions of inclusion and belonging while offering students the inspiration to achieve their dreams through educational endeavors.
"The sculpture takes on a different form as you walk underneath it, as well as move up and down the staircase, enabling the viewer to experience it differently many times over," says Hope Garcia, assistant vice president of student services at regional campuses for UNT who was part of the leadership team that helped select the sculpture design. "It truly will inspire the students at our Frisco branch campus, and all the faculty and staff who are committed to them."
Designed by Karkare, "Soaring" was forged in partnership with UNT alumni-owned 23 Design Co., which helped fabricate and install the sculpture. The Krum-based creative-design studio includes a trio of UNT Eagles -- owner/founder Brandon Taylor ('14), shop manager Loren Jones ('21 M.F.A.) and assistant shop manager Wesley Flessner ('20).
Founded in 2019, 23 Design Co. already has a number of public art pieces dotting Denton's landscape from "Shields of Tradition" at Fire Station 3 to "Fetch" at the North Lakes Dog Park. Their designs help connect people to their environment by illustrating stories of people and specific places.
"Crafting art that engages the community is our edge," Taylor says. "We don't just make whatever art we want -- we make it incredibly custom for that environment by creating pieces that fit in well with the clients' culture and heritage."
Each project brings a unique set of challenges, and fabricating "Soaring" was no different. The group had to modify the planned materials during fabrication, but adapting on the fly is nothing new for custom art.
"It's been a fun process working with Archit and teaching him about the art business," Taylor says. "With a sculpture that's one of a kind, it's not like you can follow a building plan like you would do for a house. We plan as much as we can, especially with our computer-aided design (CAD) programming, but there's still an element of the unknown you have to troubleshoot."
Those necessary tweaks were even happening as Karkare and the 23 Design Co. team were installing "Soaring" in Frisco.
"While we were installing, we had to make sure everything looked right and as close to the rendering as possible," Karkare says. "That meant adapting orientations slightly to make sure the sculpture was visually interesting when it was suspended."
Once finished, Karkare stepped back and looked at it for the first time in the Frisco space.
"I just had this sense of relief," Karkare says. "Then later, it really hit me. I am so proud of how well it turned out."