Crab creamed creators cringe

Iron and glass crustacean damaged in storage at BWI

October 16, 1997|By Kristi E. Swartz | Kristi E. Swartz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Under most circumstances smashing crabs is a good thing.

But the shattering of a 400-pound iron-and-glass crab in Baltimore-Washington International Airport has its makers steaming mad.

A 10-foot-long, 5-foot-tall bluish crab has been displayed on the BWI ticket concourse off and on for 12 years, since Anne Arundel County Executive O. James Lighthizer commissioned artists Jackie and John Douglass of Shady Side to make it.

It was moved at one point and then three years ago, stored at the start of renovation and expansion at the airport, BWI spokesman Nick Schauss said.

In storage, just as crab legs at a restaurant are wont to do, 50 of the monster shellfish's 5,000 stained-glass panes broke off.

It took BWI officials 10 months to tell the Douglasses what had happened.

"It was probably banged around," said an annoyed John Douglass. "And they left all of the appendages separated after they did it -- on a little office room on a gray dusty rug, which is the worst thing to do to stained glass."

The wounded glass crab remains at the J. E. Smith warehouse, according to Central Services Officer Jerry Klasmeier. "It wasn't dropped," he said. "There's just a natural tendency for glass to break, and I don't believe anybody abused it."

Schauss said the base "changed" when the crab was moved.

Changed? OK, well, broke, he said. Probably through wear and tear. He said he doesn't know how the glass legs got hammered.

"It's like they are purposely avoiding us even though we have the greatest stake in the deal," John Douglass said about such explanations from BWI about what happened.

The Douglasses said they worked on the giant sea figure 10 hours a day for 14 months, stopping only for Christmas Day, New Year's Day and the Fourth of July. It's made to come apart in 11 pieces: the body, the shell, the legs and back fins, John Douglass said.

"The pieces slip right out if you know what you are doing," he said.

Area businesses gave the Douglasses $13,500 and the county kicked in $6,500 to make the crab. The couple used to drive the 40 miles from their house to the airport to clean the crab for $50 a month.

They haven't seen their glass "pet" in three years, but keep a little model and mounds of pictures of it at home. They savor the comments of airline passengers over the years, like the lady who thought the crab statue was as pretty as Michelangelo's David.

John Douglass said they want to clean and restore the crab, then get a more appreciative institution to display it. The Baltimore Museum of Art or the National Aquarium in Baltimore, maybe.

Klasmeier said the county wants to bring the crab back to BWI and has received a bid of about $3,300 to clean and attach new glass. The Douglasses want much more to fix the crab.

"They want $18,000 to clean and fix it," Klasmeier said, "And we paid them $20,000 for the crab already."

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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