By Wynne Dough
| In 1993, artists Glenn Eure and Denver Lindley
and journalist Nancy McWilliams got the notion to launch an artistic
celebration of flight that would culminate on the 100th anniversary of the
Wright brothers breakthrough, December 17, 2003. Right away these
instigators ran into the n+1 problem ten years require eleven annual
observances but they cleared many thornier obstacles.
|The First Flight
Rotary Club adopted the program. Exhibit A, which had Icarus as its theme, drew
entries from all over and disbursed $3,000 in prizes. The Rotary wing
responsible for this triumph soon became known as the Icarus Committee.
|At a meeting in 1994,
Icarus really took off. Steve Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline
Association, announced, Its time to prime the pump, and
pledged $5,000 a year for a decade. Before long, local businesses had put up
nearly $140,000 more.
|This outpouring of
generosity allowed the exhibits, seven and counting each with a new
theme to continue every December at Eures Ghost Fleet Gallery and
the nearby Seaside Art Gallery, both in Nags Head. At length the Icarus
Committee added performances, a literary competition, and a yearly chapbook.
Popularity soared. In 1996, the committee left the nest as an independent
tax-exempt charity, Icarus International.
|One task remained. For
several years, the Icarians discussed a finale more enduring than an exhibit,
more substantial than a publication. Unlike edifices dedicated to the Wright
brothers and roadside markers taking note of Billy Mitchell,
this monument would commemorate
pivotal events in the first century of powered flight and honor the reigning
spirit of progress. In the crush of deadlines and deals, the shrine of
the Zeitgeist dropped below radar.
Collagraph by Glenn Eure
|It had undeniable
appeal, however. In 1999 Eure, Alterman, and others revived the idea. Eure made
a variable pitch to politicos and other interested parties. His models evolved.
This project is a lot bigger, Alterman says, than it was a
few months ago.
|After setting aside one rendering as too
much like Stonehenge, Eure consulted Israel-born sculptor Hanna
Jubran, a professor at East Carolina University whose works often express
concern about nature, society, and technology. An
airier conception emerged.
|In the current design,
fourteen concrete pylons graduated in height from eight to 18 feet form an
ellipse, 75.5 feet by 59.5 feet, reminiscent of a planetary orbit. Each pylon,
shaped like a Wright Flyer airfoil, will bear bronze tablets describing
important occurrences in the first century of aviation. A circular platform in
the center will support one of Jubrans stainless-steel sculptures. A
walkway as long as the Wrights first flight, 120 feet, will spiral out
like Voyager (or in like Skylab), joining the centerpiece to the pylons.
|A great deal is
tentative. The courtyard may be brick or cobblestone. The centerpiece may be
plain or in-scribed, may be ringed by a bench, and may be topped by a
wind-driven generator. The Icarus board hasnt approved plans, found a
site, or chosen a title. Its just begun considering which events to
memorialize. The total price may run to six or seven figures.
ESCAPE by Dan Brawley & Fritzi Huber
second in the 1999 visual arts
|Even so, Peggy
Birkemeier, half of the
feasibility committee, sees good prospects if we can find the
right niche. The current design is more compact than some beach boxes, a
mere 2,865 square feet. A contractor in Suffolk, Virginia has offered to build
the pylons at cost. Many sites hold promise. The economy is burgeoning.
This is a marvelous idea, Alterman says, if the community
Alterman agree that the project can fly if piggybacked like a Space Shuttle
prototype. This isnt
the Wright Memorial, Birkemeier points out.
Its more modest, more
contemplative. It would get more traffic attached to an existing
attraction than it would standing alone. Of course, someone would have to
maintain it. Long-term security, accessibility, and repair are beyond the scope
of an organization that may disband after the centennial. Unless Icarus allies
itself with some agency of government, Alterman fears that the monument will
turn into a graffiti attractor.
|In brief, a body with no fixed name, no Web site,
scattered membership, and limited resources intends to raise a permanent
monument to nobody in particular somewhere in Dare County plans,
permits, funding, and myriad further details TBA. If you dont like those
odds, recall that the two high-school dropouts who fetched up in Kitty Hawk 100
years ago had less going for them, and they succeeded on as tight a schedule.
discouraged. As Lindley says of his fellow conspirator,
in-the-bone optimist. So are many in this crowd, for example,
board member Bill Booker. We have three years, he says. I
dont see why we cant raise the money once we have working
drawings. Faith trumps adversity. Stone breaks scissors. Exuberance is
|Will our descendants
use antigravity conveyances powered by some yet-undiscovered transuranic
element? Will they stop by the Outer Banks en route from breakfast in Singapore
to dinner by the Sea of Tranquillity? Will a masonry centurion bid them to
pause in earshot of the surf and ponder their ancestors achievements?
Dont bet against any of this.
|The Wright brothers not only flew before the wise
men of their time. They also got three-day mail service between Kitty Hawk and
NOTE: Icarus International is going
ahead with the monument project. A site has been chosen near the visitor center
in Kitty Hawk. Fundraising is underway. For more information about Icarus, the
monument, and related topics, visit the Icarus International website at