By LUKE PUTVIN
Scheduled to be completed in early 2020, Lynnwood will have a new, large public art piece near the Lynnwood Convention Center. The artist behind the piece is Lynnwood native BK Choi.
Choi attended Cedar Way Elementary as a child and graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School. He currently lives in the Northgate area, but he still visits the Lynnwood area frequently to see his parents.
“[Art] has been a part of my identity since I was a child,” Choi said. “However, if we’re talking specifically about public art, it is rather new to me.” He mentioned being accepted to the Public Art Boot Camp which was administered by the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture. Having entered a few call for artists since, the “I Love Lynnwood” project is his first major commission. Choi did, however, make an egg for Lynnwood’s 2019 Eggs-plore.
Outside of art, BK Choi is an architect, a field which he said is sometimes referred to as “the most artistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the arts.” Additionally, he does a bit of woodworking, leathercraft and is extremely interested in vexillology, the study of flags.
“Rather than merely working from my own experience, however, I wanted to get a broader perspective of Lynnwood, so I met with Betty Lou Gaeng, a nonagenarian native of Lynnwood and official historian,” Choi said. “She was very gracious to share with me her experience of growing up in this area and what she’s seen and experienced over the years.”
Gaeng shared with Choi that Lynnwood (and Alderwood Manor before that) has always been a welcoming place where immigrants could settle to build a home and community.
“This was true for Scandinavian immigrants in the early 20th century as it was for my own family, who arrived here in 1991 from South Korea,” Choi added. “In Korean culture there is a quilt-like craft called bojagi; those that are patchwork of various cloth remnants are called jogakbo, where the pieces that make it up are usually geometric shapes arranged in an asymmetric yet harmonious balance.”
Choi found bojagi to be an appropriate analogy for the diversity that makes up Lynnwood.
“We all come from different places, but for one reason or another have settled here, and are striving to make it a better place,” Choi said. “We as a whole are greater than the sum of the parts.”
Choi wanted to translate this idea into a physical sculpture. He decided he would do this by wrapping a large, heart-shaped installation in panels of various shapes and colors.
“This heart, in turn, would frame the letters ‘Lynnwood’ some distance behind it, implying ‘I Love Lynnwood.’”
When asked what advice he would give to aspiring artists, Choi said, “Don’t be too discouraged by rejections, but always seek feedback and learn from critiques/comments. Also, learn to love the process of creating more than the final project.”
“Public art is important because it is for everyone’s enjoyment, not just for a privileged few,” Choi stated. “It is a pronouncement that we are invested in and care about the places in which we live and work. At its simplest, public art can be something nice to look at that beautifies a given space; at its noblest, it can be a visual symbol that unites a community, something they can rally behind to solve difficult problems.”
“As for this piece specifically, as it is based on my cultural background, I hope it is something that the Korean-American community can look to and be proud of: A piece not by some famous artist from elsewhere, but a local kid who grew up down the street, who wanted to create something meaningful for the entire community based on shared experiences,” Choi concluded.