Follow ‘Common Thread’ around city

Garth Britzman returns to hometown to construct interactive sculpture that will pop up all over

Jodelle Greiner, The Brookings Register
Posted 7/6/19

BROOKINGS – A bouncy sculpture will turn up all over Brookings, beginning today, but Garth Britzman is keeping the true form of his creation under wraps.

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Follow ‘Common Thread’ around city

Garth Britzman returns to hometown to construct interactive sculpture that will pop up all over


BROOKINGS – A bouncy sculpture will turn up all over Brookings, beginning today, but Garth Britzman is keeping the true form of his creation under wraps.

“We would like that first appearance of it to be spontaneous and a bit mysterious. I suppose we do kind of want to keep it a little secretive,” Britzman said in a telephone interview from California, where he lives. “Everyone in the community (will) have a chance to experience it and play with it and enjoy it.”

The only hints that he would give was in regard to the material he’d be using.

“The primary material that we’re using for the project is play balls; they’re inflatable balls you might find at a playground,” Britzman said.

“The work is called ‘Common Thread,’” Britzman said. “So the idea was to create literally a giant thread that would be just really large in scale and highly visible as well.”

He’s working with the Brookings Public Arts Commission to have the sculpture “pop up” at various locations during the next two weeks.

The sculpture will make its first appearance today at the Brookings Farmers Market in front of the Brookings County Courthouse. Sunday will see it pop up at the Brookings Area Community Band performance. It will be in Hillcrest Park from 3-9 p.m. Tuesday. The sculpture will make an appearance at Downtown at Sundown on Thursday. It will be at both days of the Brookings Summer Arts Festival on July 13-14 and will make its final appearance at the Brookings Farmers Market on July 20.

“We hope it’s a pretty awesome showcase for Brookings to have a meaningful and thoughtful piece of art that’s also family friendly, fun and sort of informal, as well,” he said.

For more information on his work, visit online.


“I spent the first 18 years of my life in Brookings,” Britzman said.

He’s a 2009 graduate of Brookings High School, where he was active in golf, music and art. His parents, Steve and Lyndy Britzman, and sister, Katelyn, are still in Brookings, and extended family is in Sioux Falls and other points in the Midwest.

Britzman went to the University of Nebraska and got his bachelor’s degree in architecture in 2013.

“I’d always sort of been interested in making and building and creating and experimenting and so architecture seemed like the catch-all for my interests,” Britzman said.

Since most practicing architects need a master’s degree, “I thought that would be an excellent chance to go to a completely different school in a different part of the country and sort of learn perhaps from a different group of architects and designers,” Britzman said.

He was accepted at the University of California, Los Angeles for a three-year graduate program in architecture and graduated from UCLA in 2016.

“L.A.’s sort of this impossibly large city of entertainment and style and culture, and it turned out that just being in such an interesting city was just as much of an education as going to UCLA,” Britzman said.

He liked it so much, he stayed.

“I think it’s still a perfect time in my life to continue to learn new perspectives and build skills and work on interesting and unique projects,” Britzman said.

Unusual job

He lives up to that by working in theme park architecture, which attracted him because it’s “a fringe career of architecture that’s only available in Los Angeles.”

“There are a lot of opportunities in theme park design and theme park architecture and master planning here,” Britzman said. “It’s sort of one part architecture and one part story-telling.

“In designing a ride or designing a land in the theme park, we have to learn and know a story very well and translate that visually through architecture, through art and design, to create a convincing reality for guests,” he said.

Britzman declined to name specific theme parks on which he’s worked, but said several were in China, one in Ghana, Africa; and some theme parks and water parks were in Mexico.

The downside is the process can be extremely long and sometimes political.

“Oftentimes, we don’t get to see our creation be realized, which is sort of a bummer sometimes,” Britzman said.

To satisfy his artistic side, he designs his own works like the one that will be popping up in Brookings.

Artistic passion

“The way I’d maybe describe my art is that I like to create delightful new encounters with familiar things. Oftentimes, that happens through hacking materials or from resourcefulness. I like to use materials that perhaps we often see in day-to-day life and transform them in some way into something new and interesting and spatial and playful,” Britzman said.

He’s made items out of plastic soda bottles, recycled paper, and shredded money. Some can be viewed on his website.

Britzman likes keeping an eye on the environment and sustainability when he’s creating his designs.

“Being a sort of steward of the environment has crept into all of my work in some way,” he said.

“I think that sort of came from real exposure and appreciation of the natural environment when I was in South Dakota. That came through just being outdoors and visiting the Black Hills and hiking and hunting,” Britzman said.

Coming home

The Brookings Public Arts Commission had become aware of his work and “they were looking for an artist that could sort of celebrate or showcase the new commission and the injection of art into the city of Brookings,” Britzman said.

The sculpture will make seven appearances in the next two weeks.

“Each time that it does make an appearance, it’s gonna be in a sort of different layout or form,” he said.

In keeping with his theme of using unusual items, the Common Thread sculpture is made out of playground balls “to create a project that would weave itself into and throughout the community,” Britzman said. 

His sculpture uses a long tube filled with 2,400 playground balls, which roughly represents the population of Brookings.

“I think Brookings is about 24,000, so each ball would represent 10 community members,” Britzman said.

The theme of community is important in his work.

“Common Thread sort of means all-encompassing or a theme that’s like present throughout the community. So it sort of represents the community through the massive quantity of balls. … We’ll sort of give measure to, you know, the exact size and diversity of the Brookings community,” Britzman said.

For the public

Unlike some artists, Britzman wants folks to touch and even change his creation, suggesting “coiling it up or moving lengths of the Common Thread around into different shapes. We want to give the authorship to kids and adults in the community to kind of make their own art with this big Common Thread,” Britzman said.

He’s looking forward to seeing what comes of it.

“I’m sort of interested in how people chose to interpret the art. I don’t really like to provide too much direction or I don’t want to provide a particular way of interpreting the art,” Britzman said.

“I think that’s the life of an architect right there, always experimenting, always creating and always learning and exploring,” he said.

“I really want it to be a fun and playful experience for everyone that visits, young and old,” Britzman said. “I think it’s gonna be a really fun summer of art and of play and I’m super excited.”

Contact Jodelle Greiner at