When artist Michael Vatalaro installed Flight of Brown Pelicans in Concourse A in 1985, he never imagined that nearly 30 years later he would be back to take it down.
But that’s just what happened in June.
Over the course of two days, Vatalaro and his assistant Yon Gautsch went about the task of painstakingly cutting the 850-pound ceramic sculpture into pieces so it could be detached from the brick wall where it has hung for three decades.
“I put it up one piece at a time, so it had to come down one piece at a time,” Vatalaro said.
Each piece of the art installation was attached to plywood backing using concrete and bolts drilled into the brick.
“When I put it up, I put it up to stay there forever,” he said.
Concourse A is about to undergo major renovation as part of the airport’s Terminal Redevelopment and Improvement Program. The entire concourse will be gutted and transformed in phases into a sleek, modern bright area for passengers to wait for boarding flights. The renovation on Concourse A will mirror that of the new addition to Concourse B, which opened in April.
In 1985, Vatalaro was among a group of artists commissioned to create art with a Lowcountry theme for the then new Charleston International Airport. It took a couple of months to create Flight of Brown Pelicans.
With numerous national and international exhibitions, most of Valataro’s ceramic art reflects his interest in both Japanese and Chinese ceramic historical periods. Valataro is an emeritus professor of art and former chair of the art department at Clemson University, where he taught for 35 years in the BFA and MFA ceramics programs. He has lectured and done workshops throughout the southeast and is currently making studio art full time. He is the recipient of the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Fellowship for Craft twice, in 1984 and 1994.