A graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, Asheer Akram is known for his work as a talented sculptor and metal fabricator. Akram is not only the founder of Kansas City Metalworks, which designs and installs custom projects for residential and commercial clients, but he is also the mind behind the Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative.
KCS: You started Kansas City Metalworks 10 years ago. How has the business evolved since you began?
AA: It started off as just me fabricating small projects as a way to subsidize income for my sculptural work that doesn’t bring in income. Since then, we’ve grown quite a bit. We’ve created a niche for ourselves in high-end metal fabrication for residential and commercial projects. Our work is now super-custom or one-off staircases or railings. We always had a goal in mind to do whatever we could to keep the ball rolling. Now we can be selective about what we work on, and that’s a luxury that I didn’t expect to have so soon.
KCS: What makes your work different from other companies?
AA: I think our business model has been so successful because most of the projects we do haven’t been done before, or there’s nobody around that has the quality of craft or is willing to approach the same projects. Those are the projects we get excited about, because it’s similar to how we approach sculptural work. Can it be done, has it been done before? There are not a lot of resources for those projects, so we have to figure it out by trial and error. Seeing the success of what you’ve built, it pays off. That’s why we’ve chosen the path that we’ve chosen.
KCS: What’s in store for the next 10 years?
AA: There’s a transition we’re shooting for where the metalworking company works independent of me. I’m trying to lessen my involvement in that to spend more time in the studio on my own work. We’re working to set up our own facility specifically for KC Metalworks. We had a long, hard road uphill, and now we’re starting to plateau. I have the freedom now to work on my own work.
KCS: One of your goals as an artist is to inspire cultural and social awareness. How have you been able to do that locally?
AA: With the Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative, one of the major goals was to get to places that aren’t as open to other cultures and give them a glimpse into my experiences and inspire them to research or travel. Where I’ve seen the most progress is in rural schools with children who don’t have exposure to that sort of thing. Some of those projects are more successful.
Culture by Car
While visiting Pakistan in 2010, Akram was inspired by the ornate Pakistani cargo trucks that provided transportation to locals. When he returned to the Midwest, he took his inspiration and turned it into an idea.
Akram purchased a 1952 Chevy, and with the help of other artists and a successful Kickstarter, transformed it into a piece of art meant to bring awareness to other cultures.
“It’s still to this day one of the more technically advanced projects I’ve completed,” Akram says.
The truck has traveled to different sites across the country, and is still as informative and relevant as when it was completed in 2013.
“It’s now operating more efficiently, especially in today’s political climate,” Akram says.