Ford airport reveals new sculpture

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The sculpture is carved from black granite and Indiana limestone and features elements in Anishinaabe teachings. Courtesy Gerald R. Ford International Airport

Gerald R. Ford International Airport unveiled a new sculpture to honor Native American history in West Michigan.

The artwork, Aankobiisinging Eshki-kakamigak, or Connection to Creation, was crafted by Anishinaabe sculptor Jason Quigno. The sculpture is carved from black granite and Indiana limestone and features elements in Anishinaabe teachings.

The base features a turtle with Anishinaabe floral design representing the four cardinal directions – north (giwaydoonig), east (wabunnoong), south (zhawanoog) and west (ningabeunoong). On top of the turtle’s shell sits the second feature of fire and flames flowing upward in a spiral pattern suggesting smoke. The pinnacle features four eagles with their mouths slightly open.

“One of my purposes in life as an Anishinaabe man and sculptor is to honor my ancestors,” Quigno said. “My intention is to share a portion of the Anishinaabek’s beautiful history, our stories and rich traditions in stone. The turtle, or mizkeekay, and its shell represent the land we inhabit. She is the base the fire and flames sit upon. Fire, or ishkoday, is important to the Anishinaabek — through the fire and smoke, our prayers flow up to the creator. Finally, the four eagles, or migiizis, represent and acknowledge the four cardinal directions. The eagles are said to carry those prayers to the creator.”

The sculpture is located near the baggage claim area and adjacent to the future federal inspection station.

“As the gateway of West Michigan, the Ford airport is in a unique position to share the culture of our community to visitors,” said Tory Richardson, president and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. “We are so pleased to welcome Jason’s incredible sculpture in our collection as a reminder of the important history of Native Americans in our community.”

Quigno, an Alma native, has exhibits at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Valley State University, the Muskegon Museum of Art and numerous private collections, among other places.

“I made this for the airport and its visitors but also for my Anishanabe people — for them to feel proud,” Quigno said. “One of their own is making a monument to honor them.”

Quigno is the latest artist to have his work displayed at Ford airport. This past fall, the airport unveiled a statue of its namesake by J. Brett Grill and a new Presidential Gateway Plaza to welcome visitors. Additionally, as part of the Gateway Transformation Project, two new murals, including “Chickens Don’t Fly Much” by Reb Roberts and “The Great Blue” by Nick Nortier and Kyle DeGroff, were commissioned.

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