Escape to Stella Polaris

The work is located at the Kelowna International Airport (5533 Airport Way.)

The Work

Representing an unearthed relic of an unknown era, the multilayered and cracked-glass cylinder visible within the eroded metal casing reveals a flight of birds. Each bird represents a species native to the area and the curved glass is etched with symbols of the natural history of the Okanagan.

All images applied to the glass were created through an abrasive etching process called sandblast carving, using aluminum oxide as the abrasive. The glass is first covered with a layer of rubber resist. The art work is transferred to the resist as a line drawing and all lines are cut with a knife. These areas are exposed one at a time.

The height of the finished sculpture is 4.6m. with a width of 2.7m. The glass weighs 1306kg. When the weight of the stainless steel metal frame is added, the entire piece weighs 2360kg. John Nutter was responsible for the artistic glass work and Thor Erling Sunde created the sculptural metal casing.

The Project

The competition attracted 44 artists from which 4 proposals were shortlisted culminating with the selection of Nutter & Sunde’s submission. Fabrication was completed over an 8-month period, and the $110,000 commission was installed and dedicated in June 2000 as a part of the grand opening of the Airport Terminal expansion.

The Artist

Born in Winnipeg in 1952, Vancouver artist John Nutter began to specialize in glass in 1973 after formal studies in art and architecture and traditional training in stained glass. His journey has led him to explore the possibilities of sandblast etching, carving and molten glass casting. His architectural glass installations can be seen throughout Canada and the United States, as well as in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Thor Erling Sunde was born in Manitoba in 1964, moving to Victoria in 1988 where he attended Camosun College. He graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1993 after a sculpture apprenticeship in Japan. Based in Vancouver, Thor works primarily with metal where he explores his fascination with sound and wind through kinetic art.


The work is located next to the entrance to the security area at Kelowna International Airport. A smaller, complementary piece is located above the baggage claim area at the north end of the building.