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Crab sculpture may be headed back to BWI Cracked crustacean will require $5,000 repair, officials say; 'A patched piece of glass'; County may balk at $14,000 price tag for protective enclosure


The crab is still cracked, but newly installed Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens has pledged to return the car-sized, stained-glass crustacean to its former home on display at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

All that stands in the way of the sculpture's return to prominence is a $5,000 repair job and the airport's demand that the county erect a $14,000 glass enclosure to keep children from climbing on the colorful crab.

The county hired a Baltimore artisan in August to repair more than 30 glass pieces that have "stress cracks," said Jerry Klasmeier, the county's chief administrative officer. The new administration is less willing to pay for the protective glass enclosure airport officials want, he said.

Airport officials also want the crab back, but they say it needs to be protected, said Marilyn Corbett, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Aviation Administration.

Owens told a BWI-area business group last week that she wants to put the crab back at the airport as a symbol of the county and of Maryland.

The sculptor, Jackie Leatherbury Douglass of Shady Side, is skeptical of Owens' promise and the county's plan to have the crab repaired for $5,000. Douglass said she bid $18,000 two or three years ago to clean and repair the crab.

"It's not going to be a work of art anymore; it's going to be a patched piece of glass," she said. "It is not a display, and that's the way they have been treating it."

Klasmeier said the crab is supposed to be an attention-getter and a way to encourage travelers to pick up information about businesses in the county.

"People walk by and say, 'Look at that interesting piece of glass,' " he said. "It was not designed as a work of art. It was an economic-development instrument that just happened to take the form of stained glass."

The county and businesses hired Douglass to create the crab in 1984. It is 10 feet long, 5 feet tall and contains 5,000 mouth-blown stained-glass pieces in blue, green, red and white. It weighs about 400 pounds.

The crab was removed from the BWI ticket concourse during a renovation after several years on display. It went back on display in 1993 and was again placed in a county warehouse in 1996 during another airport expansion.

"The 32 stress cracks resulted from the movement of the crab at the airport," Klasmeier said. "It wasn't done intentionally."

He said county-hired movers were careful to dismantle the structure and to wrap each section in plastic bubble wrap before transporting it. The sections, still wrapped, have been stored in a wooden crate in a county warehouse in Millersville since 1996, he said.

Douglass said the hollow crab pieces were left exposed, which she said let dirt build up.

Her $18,000 estimate included cleaning the sculpture inside and finding the right artisans to re-create the broken glass pieces. The originals were made in Germany and West Virginia, she said.

Klasmeier said the artist the county has hired, Lucinda Shaw of Baltimore, took samples of the glass in the sculpture and will have them re-created to return the crab to its original condition. Shaw recently had surgery and has not started the work, Klasmeier said.

Shaw could not be reached to comment yesterday.

Pub Date: 12/16/98

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