This massive metal and glass sculpture reveals a flight of birds ready to escape. The birds and glass etchings depict species and symbols from the Okanagan's natural history. This commission was part of the Airport Terminal expansion project and is the focal point of the atrium at Kelowna International Airport. All images applied to the glass are created through an abrasive etching process called sandblast carving, using aluminium 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 total height of the finished sculpture is 15 feet with a width of 9 feet. The bent glass itself weighs a total of 2880 lbs., when the weight of the stainless steel metal frame is added the entire piece weighs 5200 lbs.
The open, two stage competition invited an artist or team of artists to design and construct a piece of public art to be placed within the atrium of the Kelowna International Airport Terminal. The first stage of the competition attracted forty-four candidates. Four proposals were shortlisted. The second stage of the competition culminated in the selection of John Nutter & Thor Erling Sunde’s proposal for 'Escape to Stella Polaris.'
Fabrication of the sculpture was completed over an eight month period, and the $110,000 commission was installed and dedicated on June 30, 2000 as a part of the grand opening of the Airport Terminal expansion.
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.