SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Most large airports across the nation have an entry feature that serves as a gateway for those traveling to and from the city. Now, the Salt Lake City International Airport has two.
Earlier this year, the Salt Lake City International Airport resurrected an iconic piece from Olympic history, the Hoberman Arch. On Wednesday, Nov. 8, officials unveiled the newest art installation: The Peaks.
Designed by German-American artist Gordon Huether, The Peaks is an abstract of Utah’s Mountains weighing in at 75 tons (or about 150,000 pounds) and standing at 90 feet tall. A map of the world overlays the five mountain peaks with a handcrafted glass disc embedded where Salt Lake City would be.
“This sculpture is the continuation of a theme we have been working with for over eight years,” explained Huether. “We are celebrating the natural beauty that is Utah. That’s what it is here and all the way through the airport.”
Huether has played a vital role in the airport’s aesthetic features. Taking inspiration from the Beehive State’s landscape, Heuther has created several large-scale art installations that millions see every year. These installations include “The Canyon” which lines the walls that lead to the airport’s terminals and “The Falls” which hangs in the main terminal.
Bill Wyatt, the executive director for the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, said the art installations, specifically the new peaks, reflect a combination of Salt Lake City’s place and culture. He said jokingly that used to be a green highway sign that said “Salt Lake City Airport, that way.”
“When they’re here, we want them to know where they are by virtue of look and feel and textures,” said Wyatt. “That has a lot to do with what we are here to celebrate today.”
Huether said his inspiration for The Peaks started with Utah’s Mighty Five and a cardboard concept held together by glue. As he progressed in the project he became inspired by Utah’s five indigenous tribes and the fact that Salt Lake City is an international hub.
While he knows millions will see the work he has done throughout the airport every year, Huether said it’s not something he worries about.
“I suppose there is no such thing as an artist that doesn’t want people to see their work. I personally don’t really think about it that much,” said Heuther. “Millions of people will see this every year and that’s probably millions of people who have no idea who Gordon Heuther is. That’s fine. The idea is you just try to make the world a more beautiful place and try not to get attached to the name recognition.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said The Peaks was completely funded within the $5.1 billion Airport Redevelopment Program budget, without any taxpayer dollars from the Salt Lake City budget or general fund.
“This is because the program of art is a key piece and has been a strategic part in all of the planning of the new SLC,” said Mendenhall. “So thank you to our fantastic volume of passengers who helped pay for this piece of art.”
To honor the unveiling of the airport’s newest sculpture, Rios Pacheco, the Spiritual Leader of the Band of the Shoshone Nation dedicated with a Native American spiritual prayer.
Heuther said he has been humbled and proud to be the artist on the Salt Lake City Airport Redevelopment Project. He also teased there would be more to come as the project continues, including the future thousand-foot-long “River Tunnel,” which is expected to open in spring 2024.