The sky is the limit for a new Celebrate the Sky exhibit at NAU’s College of Arts and Letters. More than 20 handmade kites on the second floor Riles Gallery seemingly float by on the walls evoking thoughts of an easy summer day.
Designed and stitched together by CAL Academic Advisor Randy Shannon, each kite has its own personality. Animal-shaped kites include a bat, cicada bug, flying squirrel, fish and shark. Others feature geometric designs inspired by Caribbean, Asian or Native American cultures. Some look like warriors and are inspired by vintage fighter planes. Many kites have long skinny tails and others have none. A big rainbow box kite sits dormant on the third floor.
The largest kite—a two-person play sail—features hundreds of colorful shapes and is 13-feet wide and 23-feet long. It drapes from the third floor open area as if in flight.
“I am best known for my whimsical fighter kites,” Shannon says. “I don’t have a favorite, that is why they are all so unique. I never developed a single style of kite, but I built just about every style at some point.”
Shannon says his kite-making hobby keeps him positive and “looking up toward possibilities.”
His hobby took off in 1989 after a chance meeting with a kite-making couple while on a bicycle tour in Monument Valley. They rode together to Yellowstone National Park and Shannon began helping the couple launch and film their kites in flight. His head has been in the clouds ever since.
“Over the years I have literally made hundreds of kites. I made one arch train kite that had 114 kites on one line,” Shannon says. “I made my first kite out of wooden dowels and tissue paper, and followed a plan out of a kite book that I checked out of the library, but it didn’t fly it all. My mother had taught me to sew on a sewing machine when I was in kindergarten, so I started making my kites out of spinnaker nylon.”
Most of the kites in Celebrate the Sky are skinned with nylon. A few paper versions are on display. The spars (sticks or bones) are fiberglass, wood, bamboo or carbon fiber. The edging and reinforcements are Dacron, nylon, grosgrain ribbon or Kevlar.
The Riles Gallery is open during regular business hours.
A Celebrate the Sky reception is from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 29.