Eye on KELOLAND: Reaching new opportunities


WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — There’s a new piece of art to see at Lake Area Technical College.

The steel sculpture near the student center is called “Reach.”

Tessa Holien didn’t grow up around welding, but that didn’t stop the Watertown native from enrolling in the Welding Technology program at Lake Area Tech.

“I was a student at high school, but I didn’t have any more classes that I had to take to graduate, so I kind of had a free year where I didn’t have to do anything so I was thinking of ideas of different stuff I could do and welding sounded interesting so I decided to try it out,” Sculptor Tessa Holien said.

It turns out, it was worth the try.

The college ended up asking her to create a sculpture for the campus.

“They wanted something that showed Lake Area Tech and some of the values that it had and some of the opportunities that it created, so I wanted this sculpture to show how I pictured Lake Area Tech, showing the world of possibilities in front of you with an education here and applying the really hand-on learning of everything,” Holien said.

Tessa graduated from the Lake Area Tech welding program in 2020, and she brought her design to life this summer.

The piece includes two hands reaching upward.

“There’s a big learning curve for sure. The second hand went a lot faster than the first hand,” Holien said.

Lake Area Tech welding instructor, Andy Rossow, calls the piece amazing.

“She did all the forming with a hammer and a torch and everything came as a flat plate and she took it, bent it how she wanted to, hammered it to get dents in it, stuff like that. It’s very hard to do, very time-consuming, and a lot of times swinging a hammer,” LATC welding instructor Andy Rossow said.

The sculpture stands about nine feet tall, and it took Tessa more than 100 hours to make it.

She’s also the one who gave it the title Reach.

“I wanted to show that you can reach for the world; you can reach for your own personal goals and everything in between,” Holien said.

Tessa is now a sophomore at SDSU studying business economics and design, but part of her journey will always be at Lake Area Tech.

“For me, I can see my own past welding and it’s a very big opportunity for me because I’ve never made something like this before. I’ve never made something at this scale or invested this much time into something, so I can see the work that I’ve put in. ” Holien said.

Lake Area Tech provided the materials and purchased the sculpture.

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