Fascination with American mechanical ingenuity brought artist Ken Yuhasz his latest inspiration.
He took two memorable icons of the early 20th century and melded them into the newest piece of public art at Spokane International Airport.
Yuhasz embedded the round shape of the 1939-vintage Sunbeam toaster into a replica of the Gee Bee Model Z racing plane, also from the 1930s, for an unusual model aircraft hanging above the corridor in the Concourse C baggage claim.
The piece was installed recently as part of the airport’s effort to show off the cultural face of Spokane.
Done in a mix of materials, the “Aer O Toaster” uses neon lights to outline the toast and create motion for the propeller, and neon lights glow from inside the translucent fuselage and wings.
“It’s sort of a different way of looking at the objects,” Yuhasz said. “It’s definitely whimsical.”
Yuhasz grew up repairing appliances with his father and migrated into a career of sign making and neon craftsmanship through his Acme Glass Works in Spokane. In much of his art, Yuhasz creates stylized looks at man-made items that have been part of American life.
The flying toaster with its 14-foot wingspan is reminiscent of an early screen saver for personal computers.
The artwork pays homage to the Granville Brothers, who created the cigar-shaped Gee Bee racing airplane, a flying bullet that captured the country’s imagination in the 1930s. The sculpture puts their contribution to aviation at the heart of Spokane air travel.
Sunbeam’s model T-9 toaster epitomized the art deco fashion of the period and became symbolic of the convenience of American appliances.
Several years ago, the airport board set aside $150,000 for public art. “Aer O Toaster” is the second of four works. It comes after completion last year of a mural in Concourse C commemorating the 1929 cross-country heroics of Nick Mamer and Art Walker in Spokane’s Sun-God airplane.
Todd Woodard, airport spokesman, said the Yuhasz sculpture is getting noticed. “We think this is exceptional,” he said.
Freeway opening ceremony Saturday
Saturday is the opening ceremony for the first leg of the new north Spokane freeway, eight years after breaking ground on the project.
The 1 p.m. ribbon-cutting will be at the southern terminus of the 3.5-mile segment that is accessible from Francis Avenue at Freya Street. A classic car parade will follow.
The “Children of the Sun” trail was built parallel to the freeway. Children will cut the ribbon after riding bikes along the trail to the ceremony.
Spokane Transit Authority shuttle buses running from Mead High School along Hastings Road will get people to the site and provide tours of the route between Farwell Road and Francis Avenue.
Prior to the ceremony, the Lilac City Volkssport Association will sponsor a walk of the route from 6 a.m. to noon.
The route should open to traffic later in the evening.
Trail to Fish Lake under construction
Construction work is under way on the northern leg of a long-sought bike and pedestrian trail from Spokane to Fish Lake. Parking and a trailhead are being installed along Lindeke Street just south of the traffic light at the bottom of Sunset Hill.
The 4.4-mile segment on the former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way includes improved bridges across Interstate 90. The line runs in the vicinity of Marshall Road to an existing paved segment near the Scribner rail point along Cheney-Spokane Road.
The trail will eventually connect the Centennial Trail in Spokane to the Columbia Plateau Trail at Fish Lake near Cheney.
A state grant from 2007 and federal stimulus money are paying for the work.
Still to be completed is the segment closest to the Fish Lake Trail, which will require long pedestrian bridges to cross active rail lines at the west end of Queen Lucas Lake.
Five Mile Road work makes progress
Progress is being made on the widening of Five Mile Road from Austin to Lincoln roads. Keystone retaining walls and curbs are completed, and paving of the road base is under way on the $6.1 million project being paid for in part through federal stimulus funds and mitigation payments from developers.
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