Richard Hestekind is a quiet, gentle unassuming man who can be found shaping stone in his sculpture studio in Preston, Washington. While he works at releasing a form from a block of granite, Richard is also thinking. Thinking deeply, about what really matters in life, about what holds people together in community, and about the nature of loss. Richard is a talented and prolific sculptor, but he will humbly say that his gift of monumental expression is but a means to a more important end: the celebration of our shared human experience, and of just being.
Richard is a Seattle native, born in 1948 to parents whose religious devotion called them to serve as Pentacostal missionaries. After Richard was born the young family moved to Shanghai, China and soon found themselves in the tumult of the Chinese Civil War. As it became clear that the Communists were taking control of the country and life there was gravely dangerous, Richard’s father sent his wife and young son back to Seattle. Soon after his family’s departure it was evident that even he was at tremendous risk, so Mr. Hestekind boarded the last American warship leaving Shanghai just ahead of the advancing Communist forces, and headed to Yokohama, Japan.
After Mr. Hestekind established a home in Yokohama, Richard and his mother soon joined him. At just four years old, Richard had celebrated birthdays in three different countries, and at age five was comfortably boarding trains alone as he headed off to the Department of Defense Educational Activity School at the Yokohama military base. For the next fifteen years Richard was immersed into Japanese culture, witnessing the healing of post-WWII Japan as it struggled to rebuild itself. Japanese culture made a profound impression on the young Richard. Although he always felt himself in a minority, he made many friends and developed a deep appreciation of Japanese aesthetics and the importance of community in Japanese life. Even as an American child in an American school he found himself in the minority. Most of the children in school with him were the children of the American military, and the cultural prejudice they expressed troubled Richard, who frequently found himself mediating between the American children and his Japanese friends. In 1966 he entered Sophia University in Tokyo where he worked toward his Bachelors degree for two years, but then decided to return to Seattle and complete his degree there.
Richard entered the University of Washington in 1968 as an Interior Design major, being attracted to both the creative art and applied art dimensions of the field. He remembers being artistically inclined as a child, but never having formed a clear vision of how he might direct his creative energies. While studying in the UW Art Department Richard began taking sculpture classes where he met George Tsutakawa, the renowned artist and sculptor who was an art professor at UW for over thirty years. Tsutakawa saw great potential in Richard, and encouraged him to pursue sculpture. Tsutakawa’s encouragement was a turning point for Richard, he was already sensing himself being drawn to works of more monumental scale and symbolism, and Tsutakawa further confirmed his intuitive compass. In 1970 Richard experienced another turning point, an event that crystalized his vision and gave clarity to his future path. He signed up for a weekend encounter group, a psychological self-development process that was widely explored in the early 1970’s. The weekend intensive was a paradigm shift for Richard. He left the group with the profound awareness that his actions, his words and what he might create as an artist could transform the experience of other people. He began to shift his sculpture to more experiential art that was highly participatory and interactive. In 1970 Richard received his BFA in Sculpture and entered the Masters Program in Sculpture, where he focused his ideas of social art into his thesis statement, graduating in 1971 with an MFA.
Once out of school the realities hit Richard as they do most artists who move on from the academic world. He was still doing sculpture, but he also began taking on work to support himself, including landscaping projects that included some dimension of stone. After ten years of developing connections in landscape and construction, Richard established Richard Hestekind and Associates (HAI), a firm providing design and installation services for public landscaping projects. Richard also continued his sculpture, and eventually began receiving commissions for major public arts projects that have included installations for the cities of Seattle, Lynnwood, Edmonds and the University of Washington. Two recent major commissions have brought Richard long overdue acclaim, the Shoreline City Hall Water Sculpture and the Bardessono Courtyard Fountains in Yountville, California.
In the late 1990’s the Coval House Pool Room was under construction and the Bar and Shower Room design called for complex flamed granite countertops and a hand sculpted sink. Scott Hackney at Marenakos Rock Center recommended Richard to do the work, and Richard was surprised to find himself quickly welcomed into the energetic team of craftsmen at the Coval House site. Richard was quite tuned in to creative teamwork, and remembers thinking that the supportive environment there was quite rare. The work asked of Richard was functional and utilitarian, and did not tap his creative talent. Being the humble person he is, Richard never mentioned he was an accomplished sculptor. But when the granite arrived on site, the team knew they were working with someone special; every piece fit with uncanny precision, and it was beautiful.
Richard has continued to produce monumental sculptures that are reminiscent of the great American sculptors Isamu Noguchi and George Tsutakawa but equally important to Richard, he has continued his passion for building community among artists and the people who experience his work. Aside from showing his work at many Northwest galleries including the Brian Ohno Gallery, D’Adamo-Hill Gallery, and Stonearium Richard has been Artist in Residency at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, President of the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association and instructor at numerous sculpture symposiums including those held at Camp Brotherhood, Stonefest, and The Sculptor’s Symposium at Silver Falls, Oregon.
Now in his mid 60’s, Richard has begun to experience the loss of significant people in his life, including his own parents and close friend and fellow sculptor David Miller. Miller battled brain cancer until his recent death, and Richard was deeply moved by the loving support of the stone working community, sculptors and masons alike who surrounded David as he slowly laid down his tools. Aware that he too will someday stop carving stone, Richard is increasingly giving attention to community building amongst artists. From mediating amongst children in Japan to experiential art and encounter groups, and now contemplating how best to release loved ones into death, there is a profound theme in all that Richard Hestekind does: whether it be an intimate conversation or the carving of a monumental sculpture, he simply extends a loving invitation for human relationship. And fortunately for those who receive that invitation, it is also movingly beautiful.