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Massive 'Red Sails' rises at Johns Hopkins Homewood campus

Monumental sculpture is a gift from 1951 graduate Ralph O'Connor
Posted November 20, 2013
A few of 'Red Sails' by John Henry from underneath the 35-foot sculpture.  IMAGE: Will Kirk / A few of 'Red Sails' by John Henry from underneath the 35-foot sculpture. IMAGE: Will Kirk /

A hint of early snow floated across the cordoned-off site as a crane idled and the crew of three busied themselves in the gusting wind, preparing to hoist the first of several large steel segments into place. The crane ground into gear and a large shard of red steel rose into the air, swaying gently as it was guided home. The first act of installing Red Sails, John Henry's monumental sculpture, had begun.

The sculpture, a gift from alumnus and trustee emeritus Ralph O'Connor and his wife, Becky, stands 35 feet tall, nearly as high as the trees that surround it on the installation site just west of the new Undergraduate Teaching Labs. Henry himself was on hand for the installation, directing the crane operator and working with the other crew members to install and secure his creation.

“We are immensely grateful to Ralph O'Connor for this gift and for helping to expose the community to John Henry's work," said Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums. "As we work to increase the presence of public art on campus, Red Sails stands as a vivid reminder of how art can enhance the campus landscape and provide inspiration to students, faculty, and any who encounter it."

O'Connor, a member of the Johns Hopkins Class of 1951, is a Houston-based entrepreneur, civic leader, and philanthropist. He is perhaps best known to students on campus for the recreation center that bears his name, but O'Connor's generosity spans Johns Hopkins. He has established a scholarship fund for undergraduates at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and a professorship in the Department of Biology, and his support was critical to the establishment of the Walter J. Stark Chair in Ophthalmology in the School of Medicine.