Koryn’s Uncommon Creations


‘Being An Artist On Her Own Planet’

By Koryn Rolstad

When my Planet Koryn 2 book was released recently, I realized that Koryn Rolstad Studios (nee Bannerworks, Inc.) has been building public art, nationally and internationally, since 1975 (please don’t count backwards!).

For this 68-page second edition, I hired a Manga Comic Books-style illustrator to convey the story of my “being an artist on her own planet.”  (The artist for the first edition in 2005 was American comic book illustrator Mark Zingarelli.)

Walla Walla Regional Airport tarmac and park sculpture trees create a focal point for this facility. The installation depicts the forward movement of air transportation in this vibrant agrarian community and wine-country destination.

The Manga-style illustrator is Yoshi Yoshitani, daughter of former Port of Seattle executive director Tey Yoshitani. This was the first commission for the young artist, who is studying at the Rhode Island School of Design In this second edition (see front cover), I’m coming home on a space ski, with my two cats in tow, back to a flower-covered earth.

‘Art that’s poetic, personal and community-defining’

—Koryn Rolstadt

The book showcases public-art installations I’ve produced since 2005. These projects are interactive and site-specific, with the intent to convey a community voice and iconic appeal. The installations in architecture, plazas, streetscapes and universities are designed to be pertinent to their environmental “home” and “sense of place.”

Reimagining these public spaces provides opportunities for connectivity and interaction. In a nutshell, my personal guideline remains the same throughout: “That the enjoyment and impact of the installations relate to the people who visit, work and interact within their unique environment.”

This Hands-On Children’s Museum embodies the community’s long-term educational vision for children ages two through 12. The two groups of trees on the plaza reflect the original Squaxin Island Tribe (People of the Water) and their reverence for the natural waterways of the area.

My University of Washington background in architecture, engineering and fine arts has led to my philosophy, which includes exploration of materials, technologies and fabrication methods. Using strong forms, images and lighting, I developed a unique, relevant visual language that can be visually accessible for our mixed-culture community environments. In my design theory, I use a “kit of parts” concept, incorporating components into elements and installed as continuous systems.

Public art is not about the way the commissions are funded. It is about access and context for varied public environments and communities. Developed in 1973 and inspired by the 1934 New Deal Percent for  Art program, Seattle and King County were among the earliest cities and counties in the nation to mandate setting aside 1% of capital improvements to fund arts projects. The 1% guideline and funding model has been emulated in cities, states and public environments across the U.S. By 2000, there were very few areas and cities that didn’t have active Public Arts Commissions.

Bright red tree forms depicting circuits and historical language to interpret the technology education at the Rawls School of Business. Koryn chose the languages that are the most profound examples of human communication and advance the connection between major technology and commerce exchanges.

For Koryn Rolstad Studios, the list of completed installations now number more than 900 since 1975. My voice and ideas have changed and matured, the projects are larger and include landscape environments across the country. Yet, the business and process of Public Art has remained very much the same paradigm—that of supporting installations as a public set of stories, defining each unique culture and area.

Seattle and Washington State boast some of the most important Public Artists in the U.S., with unique visual languages that are personal and poetic and define the communities where these projects are installed.

Pat Hansen

Pat Hansen of Hansen Design Company compiled and designed the second edition of Planet Koryn over a period of five years of gathering information and artwork,and we have a long history of friendship and mutual support.

Pat and I first met on an airplane going to the Aspen Design Conference in 1997. She wrote these remembrances to me recently, “…meeting the year that Robert Redford, Saul Bass, Buckminster Fuller and more were in attendance….sitting next to each other on the flight to Aspen and bonding so quickly… upon our return, creating the first-ever Bannerworks brochure, which was highly awarded and the cause for me being hired by the San Francisco firm of Sidjakov & Berman.” The rest is Seattle design history for both of our companies.

‘Mandala Sunrise’ celebrates the unique and remarkable blending of cultures embodied by University of Texas at El Paso’s special partnership with the Kingdom of Bhutan. The ‘Mandala’ represents the wind in the sky, carrying wishes and dreams, and turning into a ‘sunrise’.

This is what Seattle is about—the support and collaboration in the design industry. And the support and education that small businesses like ours receive in the creative industry here allow us to produce work for many years—and many of us still are working and thriving. OK—full confession—my years are 42 and counting…