Fringe on top: class contributes to downtown placemaking project

A class project brought color to the sky above Wichita — and helped one student land a job.

Students in Kristin Beal's Intro to Community & Social Practice collaborated with Downtown Wichita and Best Fringe Forever to design and execute a fringed canopy for Gallery Alley, the outdoor art space near Douglas Avenue and St. Francis.

Students designed the color scheme and then produced and helped install the canopy.

“We would not have been able to do this without their help,” said Katherine Fugit, co-owner of Best Fringe Forever. “We cut the material, gave them some training and then they self-directed after that.”

Katherine and her husband Conan Fugit have owned Lamphouse Photo Booth Co. since 2012. Their newest venture is Best Fringe Forever, a rental service for the fringed backdrops and hangings they design and produce. Both Fugits are also WSU alumni: Conan majored in art, and Katherine studied communications.

Student Elza High enjoyed the Gallery Alley project so much that she now works part time for Best Fringe Forever.

““It’s been fun to see what’s going on in Wichita,” said High. “It’s really satisfying to finish an order and see people enjoying it in pictures on Instagram or Facebook.”

Gallery Alley’s temporary installation became a popular backdrop for social media posts, and it also attracted immediate notice from passersby, who stopped to admire the colorful gradient as the installation came to a close.

Downtown Wichita launched Gallery Alley as a pilot project in 2017. Earlier this year, the city permanently closed the space to vehicular traffic, and five new sculptures will be installed this winter.

In her role as Downtown Wichita’s director of community development, Emily Brookover manages the organization’s placemaking initiatives. The idea for a multicolored canopy came from her interest in using vertical space to bring attention to the alley.

“It’s a true collaboration between Downtown Wichita, Best Fringe Forever and Wichita State,” Brookover said. “And it’s really beautiful.”