HOISINGTON — Intricate, unique and delicate metalwork is the hallmark of Hoisington artist Bruce Bitter. For this reason, the Transportation Security Administration approached Bitter earlier this year to craft a 9/11 Memorial for Kansas airports using a steel I-beam from the World Trade Center.
The artwork will be made of stainless steel of Bitter’s own design and be featured in Mid-Continent, Great Bend, Dodge City, Hays, Liberal, Manhattan and Garden City Airports. Each one will have piece of the I-beam, which will be the central focus of the piece. The design for the Mid-Continent will be 48 inches in diameter and will have a stainless steel pedestal. The smaller airports will have a smaller design, 24 inches in diameter but also with a pedestal.
Bitter is excited to make the artwork. "Everyone has been affected by 9/11," said the artist. "Kansas is showing support for this national tragedy."
The TSA had been looking for an artist who could turn the I-beam into artwork and found Bruce and Brent, B&B Metal Art, on the internet, said Keith Osborn, federal security director, Department of Homeland Security, TSA at Mid-Continent.
"The concept they had was magnificent and will be a stunning piece of work," said Osborn. "It was respectful, reverent and was appropriate."
When the artist was first approached about making the metalwork, he was a bit nervous about the project. Phillip Garcia, assistant federal security director, Department of Homeland Security, TSA called and left a message on his answering machine saying that they had a project for him. The message was brief and to the point.
"They found me," he said laughing. It took him a few hours to decide if he wanted to return the call.
As time has gone on, Bitter has become more excited about the project. "You take on a project, and you’re not sure if you are doing the right thing," said Bitter. "Then the more people you talk to, they reinforce that you made a wise decision.
"I feel Brent and I are honored to have this opportunity," said Bitter.
Mid-Continent Airport will place the sculpture by the central entrance to the airport. TSA had the I-beam tested for safe lead levels, which it passed. The sculpture is designed to be touched, and walls at the airport will be extended to enclose the piece on three sides.
The I-beam weighs approximately 120 pounds per linear foot. The one-inch thick 11 by 20 inch I-beam was cut from item G-0143 used by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York as evidence. The TSA is currently making arrangements to transport the I-beam to Bitter’s workshop. Brent will be working on the pedestal and support cradle for the I-beam, which will not be changed from when it is received.
When completed, the Wichita piece will weigh about 500 pounds, and the smaller pieces, 200-300 pounds.
In addition Bitter’s daughter, Danielle Johnson will make souvenir replica medallions for sale. She maintains the web site for the business.
B&B Metal Arts began in 1995. They designed the pole art in downtown Hoisington, as well as locations throughout central Kansas.