While she wasn’t at the Hyatt Regency when the skywalk collapsed in 1981, Rita Blitt’s fifth grade art teacher, Ruth Ann Angstead, was among the many people injured that night. Now, Blitt has the opportunity to pay tribute to her art teacher who inspired her to create as well as to the victims, rescuers and survivors of the tragedy. Randy Mason caught up with this Kansas City favorite just down the street at the Carter Art Center.
Blitt has installed over 45 monumental sculptures up to 60 feet in height, had 70 solo exhibitions and participated in many group shows. Her works have been shown and installed in Australia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States. It isn’t often that one artist is featured in three shows at the same time, but that’s what happened this fall when Rita Blitt had shows underway at both Longview Community College and Penn Valley Community College, as well as in the gallery at Central Missouri University in Warrensburg. Rita Blitt’s Penn Valley show runs thru Nov. 7. The show at Longview runs through Nov. 12th.
The memorial will be part of a larger park developed by Children’s Mercy Hospital partnering with the KCMO Board of Parks and Recreation. Visitors to the memorial will find a 36-foot plaza area illuminated by pinpoints of light. The pinpoints of light will symbolize the victims, rescuers and the ripple effect the tragedy has had on the community. The memorial will include a seating area surrounded by lush plants. The Skywalk Memorial will be installed in Hospital Hill Park at 22nd and Gillham Road.
Blitt will create with advisors L. William Zahner, Hon. AIA, A. Zahner Company and Lorie Doolittle-Bowman, AIA, Bowman Bowman Novick Inc.
In 2009, KCMO Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners approved plans for a memorial, and SMF announced the location in Hospital Hill Park, 22nd and Gillham in Kansas City, Missouri. The Hyatt skywalk collapse remains the deadliest structural collapse in U.S. history other than the World Trade Center. 114 people were killed, 216 were injured and countless lives were changed forever by the unprecedented disaster.