Carnegie Mellon University

Students' Sculpture Takes Flight

Paper airplanes greet arrivals at Pittsburgh International Airport

by Andy Ptaschinski

A rainbow-colored, 16-foot sculpture of a giant paper airplane now greets passengers arriving at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), thanks to the hard work and vision of Shohei Katayama and Michael Neumann, master of fine arts candidates in the School of Art.

Their sculpture, titled "Flight," was installed outside Door 3 in January and marks the completion of the first phase of an outdoor baggage claim sculptural walk at the airport. PIT's Art Advisory Committee selected "Flight," along with three other projects, each receiving a $25,000 stipend and an agreement to loan the work to the airport for up to five years.

In conceiving the project, Katayama and Neumann said that they were thinking about how the space acts as a welcome mat to the city for weary travelers.

Photo comprised of two halves: blocky gray exterior of airport and colorful metal paper airplanes.
The work creates a strong contrast with the blocky black, gray, and red aesthetics of the airport's architecture.

Shohei Katayama

Photo comprised of two halves: colorful metal paper airplanes and blocky gray exterior of airport.

"Flight" is comprised of 225 individual aluminum, painted paper airplanes suspended from a stainless steel armature. To create the work, Katayama and Neumann enlisted the help of several local vendors. Especially instrumental was BASF, who donated $9,000 worth of paint primers, colors, and UV clear coats that are typically used on vehicles including Smart Cars, Nissans, and Subarus, as well as sculptures at Disney World.

For Neumann, who previously worked as a fabricator before enrolling in the MFA program, demonstrating the depth of talent in Pittsburgh was an essential part of the work.

Photo of rows of the planes: green and yellow. Shows the parts where the plane articulates with the suspension pieces.
By working with local artisans and engineers, "Flight" demonstrates some of the best Pittsburgh has to offer.

Michael Neumann

Photo of Katayama holding the yellow plane.
Photo showing details of planes.
Photo of the rear of magenta airplanes.

The aluminum paper planes and the armature were fabricated by Technique Architectural Products, and the individual components were painted by Bruce Harvey at Pro Comp Custom. In addition, Katayama and Neumann received guidance from School of Art professors Bob Bingham and Carol Kumata, along with Larry Hayhurst in the College of Engineering's Tech Spark facility.


Images courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport.