‘Not going to fit in my back alley’: YYC returns giant airplane sculpture to artist
Calgary artist Jeff de Boer’s metal artwork — 17 pieces in all — is around almost every corner at the city’s international airport, but one of his most iconic installations that started it all is being decomissioned.
“That was the big seminal piece that really got me going into the big sculpture world,” said de Boer.
Up Up and Away was de Boer’s first major commissioned piece. It took him over 5,000 hours to create and was erected at Calgary International Airport shortly after the terror of 9/11.
“The opposite of terror is joy,” said de Boer. “Being able to bring joy back into this environment, create a sculpture that is kennetic and as it turns it’s soothing and people can lose themselves in it is really part of the design.”
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For over 20 years, that joy resonated with waiting travelers.
“They’ve been there a really long time,” recalled traveler Alison Limes. “I remember when they were there when we used to fly here as a kid. And now [my] girls play with them when they’re here. They like to twist them up and watch them go around.”
“It’s dissapointing that it’s leaving,” added traveler Nova McGillivray. “It’s a piece of our city.”
The Calgary Airport Authority said the decommissioning is part of updates to the airport’s domestic terminal, including enhancing traveler experience, replacing flooring, improving lighting and creating smoother passenger flow.
“They have to change it,” said de Boer. “It’s a hard call for them. So, I appreciate that they’ve offered to give me the resources to get it out in one piece and preserve it.”
While de Boer is pleased to see one of his favourite pieces returned, he’s left with a challenging question:
“What do you do with two giant wind-up tin toys? They’re not going to fit in my back alley.”
At 20-feet tall, the two tin toys needs to find a home indoors, preferably in Calgary and as a complete set.
“I think the engineer gave me 120-year life span on the bearings, so I suspect the sculpture still has many years of play to go.”
de Boer has recieved offers on the individual planes from art collectors across the country, as well as international museums, but he’s waiting for the right offer, hoping to preserve a piece of Calgary’s history for the people who have enjoyed it most over the last two decades.
The installation is expected to be removed from YYC in June.
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