Sunday March 3, 2013

WEST STOCKBRIDGE

After spending the early part of his career bringing thrills, even fear, to his clientele, local artist and designer Kent Mikalsen now looks to bring them peace instead.

A freelance designer who helped create such thrill rides as Universal Studios Spiderman Ride and Busch Entertainments Corkscrew Hill Ride, Mikalsen has worked with special effects and animation for over 30 years. He also sells the occasional artwork and designs furniture.

That's easier said than done in a day when mergers and acquisitions fold many companies into partnerships and conglomerates with new names and new lines of business. Or when a company simply folds altogether

Now, he is redirecting his career to design sacred spaces for homes and institutions.

Ive been in entertainment design where the object is to create excitement, even fear, Mikalsen said. Sacred spaces are the same, only the opposite. The object is still to change how we think or feel through our environment.

Designing sacred spaces, he said, is an opportunity to create a positive experience through design that might be inspired by a natural environment. The form that it takes is very widely based on the intention of the space that is being created.

The space could be as small as the entry way to a home or as large as the 10,000-square-foot Hindu temple and yoga room he recently proposed in Florida.

Im very inspired by walking in the woods. Thats a sacred space to me. But everybody has that place where they find themselves. It might be inside of you. If I can help them find that place, my purpose would be fulfilled, Mikalsen said.

Born into a family of artists, designers and architects, Mikalsen said he was always encouraged to be artistic. A New York City native, he moved to Florida when he was young and went on to earn a master of fine arts degree from the Uni versity of Florida.

Making a living as an artist is difficult, Mikalsen soon discovered. To supplement his art sales, he taught art at the Univeristy of Florida and later at the Sage Colleges in Albany, N.Y. He also worked as a consultant to architects, doing architectural renderings for firms in New York City and Philadelphia.

Mikalsen landed in Berkshire County after living in an ashram in Pennsylvania, where he practiced yoga and meditation. The ashram eventually purchased land and moved its programs to what is now the Kripalu Center in Lenox. Mikalsen followed and has been living and working in Berkshire County since 1993.

The idea of creating sacred spaces has long interested him, but really started to develop after 9/11, when he took part in a World Trade Center memorial competition.

He said began work on sketches for a memorial even before he knew that a competition existed. It was his way of working through his grief, he said.

I needed to do it, he explained. It was what I do. Everyone had to do something. We all felt this incredible grieving and loss and everyone was motivated to do something. That was what I could do.

Mikalsen did submit his drawings to the competition, but his design was not chosen.

Since then, he has developed the idea of designing sacred spaces for both homes and institutions and has been marketing his talents in that area since December.

He said businesses and health care facilities are discovering that calm, serene environments can lead to increased productivity of faster healing, Mikalsen said.

While creating sacred spaces as a business is still in its infancy, Mikalsen has worked on a a 10,000-square-foot temple and yoga space for the Amrit Yoga Institute in Salt Springs, Fla. He expects it to be built next year.

Malay Desai, who is in charge of the project for Amrit, said he sought out Mikalsen, whom he has known for years, and who has done smaller projects for the yoga institute.

I was looking for a space which gives people a sense of calmness and peace, Desai explained. Kent Mikalsen gets what you are trying to communicate and he is able to deliver that.

Mikalsen said he has delivered two renderings for the temple and yoga room. The institute is seeking to raise $1.5 million to build it.

Creating a sacred space begins with a consultation, during which Mikaelsen tries to get a sense of what the client wants and assesses the space available. He gathers information throiugh a questionnaire, photographs, and measurements.

The design then becomes a cooperative venture. Often, Mikalsen will sketch ideas while talking to the client, eventually producing two or three versions of the space covering a variety of financial options.

Mikalsen also creates technical drawings for all of the contractors who will be working on the space and he offers the option of staying on as project manager.

For these services, he charges between $60 and $120 per hour depending on the complexity of the work and travel, among other factors. The initial consultation is free.

He hopes to create sacred spaces in gardens, yoga rooms and music rooms, as well as in hospitals and nursing homes, to name a few.

It is wherever a person gets inspired, Mikalsen said. Anywhere one can change their consciousness is a sacred space.