Cal U professor’s Arctic expedition inspires airport artwork

Travelers at Pittsburgh International Airport can view installation by Jim Bové, who teaches jewelry-making and sculpture at California University of Pennsylvania


Cal U Communications

Cal U Professor Jim Bové’s sabbatical project, “Shadows of the Midnight Sun: Traveling to the Arctic Circle in Search of Inspiration,” also inspired a contemporary art installation on display through June 2021 at Pittsburgh International Airport.

A Cal U art professor’s Arctic expedition inspired a contemporary art installation now on display at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Travelers who pass through Concourse C can view “Glacial Front,” an installation based on Professor Jim Bové’s sabbatical project, “Shadows of the Midnight Sun: Traveling to the Arctic Circle in Search of Inspiration.”

Bové teaches jewelry-making, sculpture and 3D design at California University of Pennsylvania. In October 2019 he was one of 29 artists and scientists who sailed on a three-masted, 190-foot “tall ship” from Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost town, through the islands of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

“This amazing landmass stunned us every day with its beauty,” Bové said. “We traveled to within 10 degrees of the North Pole, a place few get to see. From glaciers to polar bears and the northern lights, the sights were beyond my expectations.”

The artists were forbidden to take anything – not even a pebble – from the fragile landscape. So Bové created body-hugging brooches from sea ice and glacial deposits, photographed his shipmates wearing them, then returned the natural materials to their place. He also used computer-aided drafting and a 3D printer to design and print pieces based on the rugged Arctic landscape.

For the airport installation, he added an 8-foot stretch of glazed porcelain shapes that resemble a line of distant glaciers. An artist’s statement explains the work to passers-by.

“When Jim presented his project on the Arctic, it was an immediate fit for the airport’s art program,” said Rachel Rearick, Project Manager, Planning, who oversees the arts and culture program at Pittsburgh International Airport.

“The beauty of travel is that it presents endless opportunity, and this work captures the wonders that exist when we look outside of ourselves and our daily lives. This body of work takes people on an adventure, while also challenging the notion of what wearable art can be.”

Pittsburgh International Airport was the first stop on Bové’s expedition, adding another layer of meaning to the installation. He welcomes the chance for his art to reach a wider audience, including viewers who might not frequent museums or galleries.

The challenge, he said, is to engage travelers who are on the move and focused on their destination.

“This piece beckons you to come closer and take time to examine it,” he said. “It excites curiosity. If the visual impact is great enough, people will pause to look, to read my artist’s statement and learn more about the world we live in.”

Bové said his drawings and photographs continue to inspire his work, both as an artist and as a professor at Cal U.

“I’ve shown my students how the artwork was created and installed. I’m modeling the behavior of a professional artist, demonstrating the skills that are valuable in this career.”

He expects to develop new coursework as he learns more about computer-aided design and 3D printing.

“Expeditions like this are not just about the immediate research; it is the impact over months, even years,” Bové said. “As an artist, I will be inspired for the rest of my life.”


“Glacial Front” will be on display through June in Concourse C at Pittsburgh International Airport.