About 24,000 pounds of aluminum artwork that has adorned the Kansas City skyline for more than two decades was removed by helicopter on a beautiful Sunday morning.
The “Sky Station,” known by locals as the hair curler on Bartle Hall, will undergo repairs for a lightning strike and water damage.
The whole operation took barely a half-hour and was over by 7 a.m. City architect Eric Bosch said everything went smoothly.
“It came off very easily, but it was all orchestrated,” Bosch said shortly after 7 a.m. as work crews attended to the two sections that were gently set to rest on the ground north of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. “These men knew what they were doing.”
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The 65-degree weather, with little or no wind, could not have been better. The robin-egg blue sky provided a perfect backdrop for the operation.
Dozens of spectators gathered at the southwest corner of Barney Allis Plaza. Everyone had a camera or a cellphone. A box of LaMar’s glazed doughnuts added to the mood.
Among those watching, wrapped in blankets, were 8-year-old Vera Fosnow, 7-year-old Henry Fosnow and 6-year-old Charlie Fosnow. Their dad, iron worker Clint Fosnow, was one of the tiny figures atop the pylon waiting for the helicopter to arrive. Ashley Beard-Fosnow called her husband on the phone.
“Can you see me?” he asked her. His orange shirt, brighter even than the helicopter, stood out. The Cass County family waved.
“We rolled out of bed at 5:30 this morning to be here,” said Ashley Beard-Fasnow. “This is an exciting project.”
The sound of the chopper blades reverberated all over the otherwise quiet downtown as the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane hovered over the pylon and the workers attached the cables. All the bolts were placed in pouches that accompanied the art pieces to the ground. They were too many and too heavy for the workers to bring them down on the ladder inside the pylon.
The highway, ramps and streets around Bartle Hall were closed for the operation. The plan was for the helicopter to land for a short break after removing the first section, Bosch said, but the operation went so well it went directly back up for the second section. The piece, fully assembled, is 40 feet tall and 35 feet wide.
The easternmost and largest of the “Sky Stations” was struck by lightning, which caused a fissure that allowed water to get inside. Each of the “arms” that stick out from the work, at 100 pounds apiece, was to be removed before the artwork is trucked to A. Zahner Co. at Ninth Street and the Paseo for repairs. Nearly all of the $1.3 million cost is covered by insurance.
The “Sky Stations” were designed by New York artist R.M. Fischer, and the pieces were installed in 1994. They were part of the city’s public art program. The pieces, along with other works by the same artist inside the convention center, originally cost $1.2 million, but they have appreciated and are now worth about $5 million, Bosch said.
Reinstallation is expected in September and will require another challenging operation.