The Community and Media Outlets Mistakenly Connected the Sculpture to a Nazi War Plane, so the Principal is Removing It
A WWI Red Baron airplane that hangs in the Little Theater lobby at Albany High School is going to be removed because people in the community and local media “journalists” have connected it with the Nazi regime.
Alexa Richie, the Principal at Albany High School issued the following statement to students, parents and the local community regarding the issue:
Dear Albany High School Community,
Background: The WWI Red Baron airplane that hangs in the Little Theater lobby, was designed and built by Tyler Hoare, local artist who also created the water sculptures at the Berkeley Marina. Around 1979, he offered the sculpture to the cities of Berkeley and Albany who both said that they were not in a position to accept it due to space and community concerns. The principal of Albany High School at that time, offered to display it where it hangs today. Over the years, and in particular during the Instagram incident in 2017, multiple district, community and media outlets connected the sculpture to a Nazi war plane (there is an iron cross, not a swastika but the color themes are similar to WWI and WWII German aircraft) There is also a noticeable machine gun at the top of the sculpture, which was concerning, especially during the aftermath of the Florida school shootings. As principal, I made the decision to explore the possibility of donating the plane and replacing it with contemporary AHS student art that reflects a truer image, mission and legacy of our school.
Process: The following is a list of those that were consulted. The question was, do we keep the plane or donate it and why.
- Tyler Hoare, artist. I was able to speak to Mr. Hoare on two occasions, January and February 2019. He provided the history of the sculpture, confirmed that it was the property of Albany High School and said that it was our decision to replace the plane
- Student letter sent to me in 2017 included a well researched summary of the historical context of the plane and why some students and community members might be offended by it being so prominently displayed at our front entrance. Being a combat plane and having a gun at the top were among their concerns.
- AHS Department Chairs and staff. We came to the consensus that it was time to remove and replace the plane with contemporary art.
- Albany High School PTSA. They were in agreement that it was a good idea to remove and replace the plane with student art.
City of Albany. Vice-Mayor McQuaid supported our intent and provided insight into public art considerations.
- Current and former Board of Education members. Provided insights and supported the project of removing and replacing the plane.
- AUSD Jewish Parent Advisory Group and Black Parent Advisory Group. Both were in support of the project.
- District leadership and maintenance staff. Both supported the project and the logistics needed to lower the plane.
- Albany Public Library. Provided background information.
Next steps: The plane is scheduled to be carefully lowered over the mid-winter break by our maintenance department. I have arranged to donate the plane to the Livermore co-ed Scout Troop Post997.org who are affiliated with RobotGarden.org and TriValleySTEM.org. It will be displayed along with other WWI aviation projects they are currently working on.
Alexia Ritchie, Principal
Who Was the ‘Red Baron?’
Baron Manfred von Richthofen was born on May 2, 1892, into an affluent family of Prussian nobles in what is now Poland.
He enjoyed a privileged upbringing and spent his youth hunting and playing sports before being enrolled in military school at age 11. In 1911, after eight years as a cadet, Richthofen was commissioned an officer in the 1st Uhlan cavalry regiment of the Prussian army.
At the beginning of World War I, Richthofen’s cavalry regiment saw action on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. He received the Iron Cross for his courage under fire, but he later grew restless after his unit was consigned to supply duty in the trenches.
Despite uninformed people mistaking the iron cross with Nazism, this award is given to even our military members today for courage. Insert the time a “fact-checker” and “journalist” for the New Yorker mistook an ex-marine ICE member for a nazi because of his iron cross tattoo which led to threats and harassment for months.
About the Artist Who Created the Sculpture
For nearly four decades, Berkeley artist Tyler Hoare has been adding a bit of whimsy to the East Bay waterfront with his salvaged wood creations: some 30 large sculptures including airplanes inspired in part by Snoopy comics; a submarine, a pirate ship, a viking ship, and a ‘King Tut ship’ with a gold-painted Egyptian-style figurehead; and, before most of the wood pilings in the water rotted away, spindly, rustic, 6-foot-tall sculptures Hoare calls his “post people.”
If you’ve driven on the freeway toward San Francisco, you’ve likely seen his work mounted on wooden columns hovering above the water near Berkeley and Emeryville. His sculptures have been part of the local landscape for more than a generation. And, though they once appeared as a highlight amid towering figures, made from debris and found materials, that defined Emeryville mudflat art, Hoare’s work has long since stood alone due largely to some geographic luck. As the last artist standing, he’s taken the responsibility seriously, and approached it with good humor.
“It’s been kinda my obligation to entertain the poor people in their cars stuck in traffic, and I’m glad to do it,” the 73-year-old said recently. “Usually it’s the kid in the backseat. It’s nice to have something to look at when you’re driving along.”