Client: Anchorage Fire & Safety Training Center
Completion date: 2013
Artwork budget: $145,000
Public Works Dept. Municipality of Anchorage 1% for Art Program
ARC RIOT Creative Imaging (Fabrication)
Broadway Signs (Installation)
The Anchorage Fire Training Center is considered the heart of the department, training all firefighters in Anchorage while serving groups from greater Alaska, Troopers, US Marshals, and visiting school children. The City sought an artwork to reflect the full diversity of the Center’s functions.
Koryn Rolstad was awarded the project with a proposal to push the scope of the project beyond one corridor application to eight major sites throughout the facility. Working with stakeholders, she discovered the Center’s full 'story'. Her solution included history, culture, natural environment and community identify to form a strong, graphic and interactive experience.
The architecture of the newly built Center was in place, requiring art be integrated as an addition to the architectural interior. The utilitarian spaces required the artwork to fit public access areas seamlessly, sometimes in surprising ways. The integration was more about the telling of the ‘story’ than about the architecture, allowing for graphic images large and small, fabricated in many methods and materials, placed on walls as well as windows.
The artist’s main goal was to develop a unified visual language to support a series of diverse stories that would resonate with emergency professionals and the community at large. The design aimed to inspire men and women in training for jobs that are varied, dangerous and rewarding. The overall effect was meant to generate contemplation and conversation on the process of Community Safety in ways that were funny, different, educational, serious and thoughtful. The story begins at the entry lobby where visiting school groups congregate at the 'Animal Walls'. Koryn portrayed the lighter side of this facility by assigning the various types of helmets to each 'Alaskan Critter’. The Leadership wholly embraced the solution, as it softened the gravity of their purpose within the community.
This project was a collaboration between Fire Departments, Community, Educators and Leadership of the Fire Training Center, including 'assignments' for the various departments to send us images of their department helmet, sorting through old educational archives, submitting station logos and badges. The Assistant Chief and Facilities Director found images of old etchings on overhead projector transparencies of fire fighting equipment and culture as far back as the 1700's. Further research found images of men and women performing duties, equipment over the decades, environmental conditions and methods along with quotes and text defining service throughout the years.
One storyline involved when I was allowed to photograph close up details of ornate antique fire engines, creating works that heighten awareness of the decorative details of past machinery. These photographs were framed and installed in time for enjoyment by the Center’s first graduating class.
The installation as a whole incorporates images throughout classrooms, dressing areas, food service, hallways, staircases and exterior windows. The overall effect allows the community, visitors and the day-to-day class participants to understand the values and goals required in this professional pursuit.
The project was designed as a celebration of the men and women who are dedicated to community protection, not as an intellectual experience. The visual language needed to be direct and accessible, using iconic images of the activities and culture of Fire and Community Safety. Even the clerestory and classroom windows were employed, using silhouette images of Alaskan flora and fauna, ladders and equipment, to shadow on the corridor walls at various times of the day and seasons, an element of surprise and beauty in support of the Center’s greater educational goals.