- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Every great artist has his or her preferred medium. Whether it be watercolors, a chisel and hammer, oil paints or clay on a turning wheel.

For Ty Keltner, a man who grew up in Fairbanks, it’s Lego bricks.

The garage of his Juneau home is crowded with bricks of every size, shape and color from Lego pirate sets, to city sets and hundreds of Star Wars Lego minifigures. He has a drawer filled exclusively with blue Lego chairs from a stadium project and another filled with treasure chests. Another bin is filled completely with Lego centurion minifigures.

Keltner, now 34, is the owner of one of the largest Lego collections in Alaska.

Just how many Lego bricks is that?

“I get asked that a lot, actually,” he said. “I know have about 400,000 bricks, but that’s where I stopped counting. That was more than 10 years ago now. Just one of these bins (a full size 20 gallon-plus bin) has thousands upon thousands upon thousands of bricks.”

Keltner grew up in Fairbanks and developed an early love for Lego. Some of his early favorites include the Shell Service station - one of the few sets he regularly rebuilds by the directions - the 1994 Hot Rod Club, the 1989 Forestman’s River Fortress and the 2007 Dwarves’ Mine.

Nowadays, Keltner eyes sets not so much for the completed picture on the box.

“It’s got to the point where I’m always looking at the pieces and what else I could use the pieces for,” she said.

New colors, especially the introduction of pastel colors in what are labelled as Lego sets for girls, also catch his eye.

Those pieces make it into creations like a scale model of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Gruening Building, which still resides on campus, or a turtle with a micro-scale village on its back that was featured in the “Brick by Brick” exhibit at the Anchorage Museum last year.

He also regularly attends BrickCon in Seattle, an annual convention of like-minded Lego lovers to show off creations and learn new techniques, where his entries have won six times.

Keltner met his wife, Susan, while they both attended UAF and the two worked as reporters at KTVF and anchored together. Susan joked that at first it seemed like a childhood hobby that Keltner had yet to give up, but said she came to appreciate the creativity behind it.

“The first impression people have is, ‘Oh, you play with Lego?’ but now when we’re in our 30s, it’s totally different,” she said. “Some people paint and some people take pictures, and Ty builds with Lego.”

The Keltners moved to Juneau in 2011, shortly after the birth of their son, Brevin, now 5. Three years after Brevin was born, they had Kristin, who’s now 2.

Keltner’s building table has transformed in a very “Lego Movie”-esque way with the help of Brevin, who’s quickly taken to playing with Lego. It currently is home to an eclectic city scene with cars, knights and Star Wars figurines. There’s no superglue in sight.

“I hope my kids will see the same value in Lego that I have,” he said. I hope they grow up loving to be creative. My little boy really likes to build sets, so I already see the growth in problem solving and math in him.”

For Keltner, he’s continuing to look for new challenges with Lego.

One of the many plastic bins contains a hockey team made from pieces from the Lego Bionicle line, a set of action figure-like characters that don’t have the traditional studs of normal bricks.

His latest project is a gigantic mural of Wily Castle, a scene from the 1998 Nintendo Entertainment System video game “Mega Man 2.” When it’s complete, it will be made up of 20 gray 48-stud-by-48-stud baseplates. It’ll be his largest-ever mosaic.

“I’ve always been a creative person, so I’m always looking a great ways to bring ideas to life,” he said. “I do draw, take photos and other things, but Lego is also an art form. It’s another means to spark creativity. Some kids give it up eventually, but I’ve always been a kid at heart.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com


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