Client: Mercy Medical Center - Children's Center

Location: Des Moines, IA, United States

Completion date: 2011

Artwork budget: $90,000

Project Team

Interior Designer

Saxton Inc., Des Moines, IA

Art Consultant

Jackie Moberg

Moberg Gallery


Koryn Rolstad

Koryn Rolstad Studios


‘Eco-Stories’ created a safe, exciting and interactive welcome to the Mercy Medical Children's Center. The main goal was to create an environment that would appeal to young people 2 to 17 and their families, a core challenge being their technical and visual acuity, and consideration of their individual needs. No one wants to feel ‘dumbed down’ or out of place. Images of ecosystems, animals, and iconic man-made elements cover five walls, ceiling soffit surface, two windows, and a column. Seven ‘Animal Heads’ with custom composed ‘voices’; accessed by brightly colored push buttons, provide a surprising and compelling interactive feature.


The main goal of the project was to engage children from 2 to 17 on an equal visual and educational basis. Koryn developed a story of how human endeavors emulated the natural environment from all over the world at different ages and locations. As an environmental installation, the story was designed to fully engage the children and their caretakers. The tree is layered with 3-D radiant and aluminum leaves along with the windows covered with translucent film back-lit at night. Fun for everyone was the ‘Animal Head Sounds’ for which Koryn hired a composer to create seven animal ‘languages’ involving long songs and conversations between the individual and herd, i.e. the barking of a Zebra and the songs of the Orca Whale. ‘Eco-Stories’ redefined the lobby and, KRS has been told it calms the children and families. The design for the rest of the area included large images of nature and bright fun happy colors.


The design firm and hospital client, the medical facility and nursing staff, expressed their big goals for the entry lobby, and allowed Koryn full creative reign to develop the project concept. The clients were so engaged with the educational aspect and the depth and layers of the 'design' story that they fully encouraged Koryn’s artistic voice, as she responded to their bigger goals. The Animal Heads came at the end of the project as an 'Aha!' moment when Koryn discovered a new technology had been put on the market for very small speakers and computer data storage for sounds. She hired Kevin Rolstad, her brother who is an established composer, to download the sounds of our seven chosen animals from Rochester State University Biology Library, and he composed the voices in layers as if they were talking to their family (Gibbon) or barking with their friends (Zebra) or trying to get a word in with their 'flock' (flamingo). During installation the contractors and doctors would spend valuable construction time pressing the buttons of favorite animals and figuring out who most resembled the personalities of each critter!

Additional Information

Quote from Jan M. Myers, RNC, BSN - Director of Pediatrics/PICU Mercy Children's Center: "The art is the centerpiece of our new unit. It is colorful, interactive and commented on by everyone who visits. The children laugh and smile as they push the animal sound buttons bringing contagious smiles to their parents and caregivers. The design and installation process was smooth and easy. Koryn listened to our vision and needs and combined them with her own vision and artistic talent to give us a one of a kind piece of art that is timeless."