University of North Texas alumnus Archit Karkare will make his mark on the college’s Frisco campus. Students, faculty, and staff at Frisco Landing, which officially opens for the spring semester, will be sure to notice this as they walk up or down the front stairs of the newly built building.
This sign? Sculpture mounted above the stairwell, consisting of three metal forms suspended from the ceiling and curving in a smooth whirlwind. This is a neat modern reference to the mighty eagle, the university’s mascot. The fibers are strung on metal molds, almost like a harp. Like the new building itself, the shapes are light and airy.
Carcare was selected to create an installation as part of the Art in Public course at the College of Visual Arts and Design. Art in Public is a compulsory class for all UNT art students majoring in sculpture and is open to students from other disciplines. He received word that his proposal was accepted shortly after he put the finishing touches on it. His proposal included materials, design, scale and other details. His fatigue almost prevented him from celebrating his choice.
“I was so exhausted. I saw the letter and thought, “Great,” said Carcare. “When I first found out about this, I thought, ‘OK, I need to sleep because I stayed up all night finishing this project. But then I thought, “Damn it! Aha!'”
Alicia Eggert, associate professor of studio art at the College of Visual Arts and Design, said the classes force art students to think about public art from a professional perspective: where the buyer will set the art, budgetary constraints, and how people can interact with the art. to public. Unless the piece is set out of reach, artists can almost guarantee that people will touch it, lean on it, or climb on it. Public art is often funded by taxpayer money or public-private partnerships.
According to Eggert, public art is a challenge for artists. They need to think outside the gallery and consider the elements. But artists who create public works often have a much larger audience than artists who exhibit in galleries. Galleries and art centers attract art lovers and families looking for creative programs for their children. Public spaces are open to people who have never been inside a gallery or museum.
“I think public art gives communities in general access to simple art,” Carcare said.
“Where in museums you might have to pay a fee. Yes, not everyone can go and see it. In a public setting, almost anyone, from the richest person in the world to the lowest of the poor, who just goes there, gets inspired and actually gets together, socializes, engages and just has a good time.”
Eggert has been teaching the course since 2015 and she has received her fair share of requests from groups looking to add installations to their territories.
“I get approached by community organizations all the time and say, ‘Hey, we would love to have art on our campus’ or ‘I wish someone would make this art for me,’” Eggert said. “I’m trying to find ways in which we can collaborate with the community. I enjoy providing my students with services and learning opportunities, as well as opportunities that will benefit them professionally.”
One of the class’s first partnerships was with the Denton Good Samaritan Society, a faith-based non-profit organization that operates two local retirement communities with long-term care and rehabilitation services.
“I gave my students that opportunity and also asked a partner, ‘Do you have some money to help with the manufacturing process?’ Because when you make a sculpture, you are doing this work outside of school.”
Karkare grew up in India, where his parents enrolled him in art classes at an elementary school. He moved to Frisco with his family at age 15 and attended Heritage High School. Since then, he has been studying art and hopes to become a professional VFX artist, using the digital palette to create images in feature films and other media.
Carcare said he approached the project with the university’s identity in mind first. UNT is where students prepare to spread their wings and enter their lives.
Carcare also researched the indigenous peoples who lived in the area.
“From this study, I realized that eagle feathers are of great importance in their culture,” Carcare said. “Especially establishing their hierarchy and the like. And again, one of the UNT logos is an eagle. So it kind of worked together.”
Carcare said he then explored how the pen could be simplified by giving it shape, line, or texture. He looked to other sculptures for inspiration, settling on a huge piece from the Juanjo Novella Public Art Studio.
“One of the sculptures that came out was this oak leaf sculpture at the University of Louisiana. They were two oak leaves that seemed to be twisted together. And it was called “Hug”. And so I got inspiration from it. I started twisting the feathers and simplifying them even more. And then, after the design was done, it was about materials like, “OK, what can I use for this?”
Carcare gave the three metal forms the shape of feathers. He installed a dyed single strand polyester between the two sides of the metal frame. Once the support beam was approved to support the sculpture, which Carcare said would weigh about 300 pounds, the pieces were hung from the ceiling so that they appeared to spin.
“The idea was the sculpture itself,” he said. “If you go from the bottom of the stairs to the top, the sculpture basically expands visually from this flat 2D part to this expanded 3D part.
“I was trying to kind of convey that experience, which in my experience was what you achieve just by being on the UNT and then on the CVAD. Just expanding my options on what I can do while I have the equipment and then realizing the potential and then just experimenting. And to have a lot of competition, intense competition, with my peers, like so far. They just go for it and everyone does it. So it was kind of an idea that needs to be sculpted and I wanted other people passing by to feel it.”
Carcare took on tasks that any artist would have accomplished when creating a public art installation. He kept budget in mind throughout the project and thought about how students, faculty, and staff would move around the space. The metal parts were made by a local company owned and operated by an alumnus of the College of Visual Arts and Design, and Carcare visited the Frisco campus to finalize his design.
Eggert said that students who win public art projects get more out of it than experience with a client and budget, though for a student the process is invaluable.
“Having thought about all this, I try to encourage my students to think about who they are as artists and what they can bring to the project,” she said. “They are not designers. Designers take into account the client and the needs of the client. I think their focus is on the customer, yes. But artists should be able to jump in and create something that reflects their own interests and passions.”
Students, faculty, and staff will see the installation when classes begin on January 17.