GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A model airplane hand-painted by artist and sculptor Alexander Calder has found a new home at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
Called “Flying Colors of the United States,” Calder built and painted the model airplane featuring a 74-inch wingspan in honor of the United States Bicentennial.
The art piece featuring blue and red waving stripes across the plane’s white body is now on display in the airport’s entrance hall. The city of Grand Rapids, which was gifted the work in 1975, loaned it to Ford Airport.
“We are incredibly pleased to unveil a second Calder piece for our growing collection, which underscores our commitment to both preserve the history of our community and to highlight its public art,” said Tory Richardson, president and CEO of Ford Airport.
“We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the city of Grand Rapids to showcase this striking sculpture, which is a welcome addition to our entrance hall. As the gateway to West Michigan, we are honored to host Flying Colors at the Ford International Airport.”
Prior to the relocation to Ford Airport, Grand Rapids kept the work on display on the first floor of City Hall at 300 Monroe Ave. NW.
Calder is perhaps best known in West Michigan for the iconic “La Grande Vitesse” public sculpture located in Calder Plaza outside of Grand Rapids City Hall. Better known to residents as “The Calder,” the city incorporated the sculpture’s image into its logo.
“By investing in the arts, we can increase local business activity, provide a better quality of life for residents and elevate our tourism efforts to make Grand Rapids a true destination,” said Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “We appreciate our partnership with the Ford International Airport, which has graciously created a wonderful new home so Flying Colors can be viewed and appreciated by all.”
The design of the “Flying Colors of the United States” was recreated on a Boeing 727, with First Lady Betty Ford presiding over the ceremony in Washington, D.C. when the plane was dedicated in November 1975.
The model was commissioned by Braniff International Airways, which gifted the art work to Grand Rapids in 1975 after the plane bearing the recreated design flew into the city.
Grand Rapids and Ford Airport began discussing relocating the model to the airport in 2019. The airport’s Art Committee worked with the city and others to develop an appropriate display for the work.
That process was interrupted for about a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It resumed in March 2021.
The display case and “Flying Colors of the United States” work sits on the west end of the entrance hall. On the east end, a painted wooden model of La Grande Vitesse is displayed.
“It is such a privilege to welcome Flying Colors to Ford International Airport,” said Dan Koorndyk, chair of the Airport Authority board. “President Ford and the First Lady were known for their support of the arts, helping to commission pieces that would serve as the focal point for our community – and the source of true community pride.
“They both recognized the importance of having art interwoven throughout the community for the enjoyment of all. We are so pleased that Ford International Airport is now home to two such noteworthy pieces of Calder art.”
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