400-pound stained-glass crab is moved from airport, put on ice

July 22, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

Pity the giant stained-glass crab.

Seven years ago, Anne Arundel County Executive O. James Lighthizer proclaimed the 400-pound crustacean a "centerpiece" of the county, a symbol of progress and economic development displayed on a pedestal in the heart of Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Today, the once-celebrated crab -- moved from the airport in October 1990 -- languishes in a storage crate in Annapolis as the county tries to find it a new home.

"We're working with state officials on getting it displayed somewhere," said Sam Minnitte, executive assistant to Mr. Lighthizer's successor, County Executive Robert R. Neall. "We have a few sites in mind," he said, declining to name any of them. It will most likely be a state building in Anne Arundel County, he said, adding that officials hope to announce a decision in the next 30 to 60 days.

Richard Hall, an assistant central services officer with Anne Arundel County, said the county has been negotiating with the state Department of Transportation about returning the crab to the airport, but no deal has been made.

Mr. Minnitte said he "could not confirm or deny" that the crab would be returned to the airport.

The problem with finding a new site is that it's hard to find a place big enough to display a fragile crab about the size of a Yugo, Mr. Minnitte said.

When the sculpture was unveiled in February 1985, Mr. Lighthizer said the crab "helps us go a long way toward giving Anne Arundel County a centerpiece, if you will, in the state of Maryland."

But time took its toll on the sculpture, and by 1990 the county was planning to move it temporarily to replace the pedestal, which wasin poor condition.

At the same time, Mr. Minnitte said, the airport management ended the crab's five-year free ride in the main concourse. Mr. Minnitte said a representative of the advertising firm that manages display space for the airport told the county that the fee would be about $1,300 a month.

In view of the fee, "it was decided to put it in storage until we found another venue," said Mr. Minnitte, who was a county economic development official under Mr. Lighthizer, who now is state secretary of transportation. It currently costs the county $162 a month to store the crab at American Securities storage in Annapolis.

BWI spokeswoman Adrienne Walker-Pittman said the crab's old haunt near the Delta and United Airlines ticket counters is vacant.

The artists who created the crab are not happy about all this, especially because the county moved the crab from the airport concourse without consulting them.

"You do everything you can as well as you can, then the ham-fisted way they've treated this is just appalling," said Jackie Leatherbury Douglass of Shady Side, who built the crab with her husband, John Douglass. "We're afraid they're going to break it."

Ms. Leatherbury Douglass said it took the couple 14 months to complete the sculpture at their waterfront home in southern Anne Arundel County.

Ms. Leatherbury Douglass designed it, cut the glass and set the pieces onto the iron frame, which Mr. Douglass had welded.

Mr. Minnitte said the couple performed the work under a $20,000 commission, $13,000 of which came from private sponsors, the balance from county funds.

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