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‘I Thought We Only Had 100,’ Says Student At Nuclear Bomb Art Exhibit

January 8, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ When Ari Kalogeropoulous and his classmates first noticed that the floor of the spacious lobby at Boston’s Museum of Science was covered with 20,000 tiny clay cones, they burst into laughter.

″What is this?″ they asked. ″Looks like spikes.″

The joking stopped when a museum employee told them each clay cone represented an American nuclear warhead.

″Wow, I thought we only had 100 bombs,″ said Ari, who surveyed the display with his elementary school class from the suburb of Somerville. ″It’s good to have something like this so people know.″

The clay ″bombs″ are part of a $16,000 exhibit that has shocked and angered viewers around the world - a 35,000-piece replica of the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal in miniature.

When the exhibit, ″Amber Waves of Grain,″ is completely erected Friday, small ceramic submarines, B-52 bombers, missiles and warheads will stand wall- to-wall and hang from the ceiling of the museum’s lower lobby.

The off-white, rose and light-brown clay models range in size from a 4- inch-tall bomb to a 4-foot-long Trident submarine.

Artist Barbara Donachy, a resident of Denver who created the project with her husband Andy Bardwell, said the show was designed to present an unbiased, educational look at America’s weapon power.

″I don’t think of myself as an activist,″ said Ms. Donachy, the mother of a 1-year-old daughter. ″I’m an artist and a concerned member of the human race who wants to see it continued for a while more.

″This is not an anti-nuclear protest. It’s a factual display, so it’s reached people that other protests have not.″

She said she intentionally made the exhibit attractive - from a distance, the small warhead models look like a field of swaying wheat - so that viewers would not walk away hastily.

″I wanted it to be beautiful so people wouldn’t be turned off by it,″ she said. ″We’ve forgotten it’s OK to talk about things like this and question them. I think the project is really sort of patriotic.″

The exhibit first appeared in New York in late 1983, then traveled to Aurora, Colo., Germany and Washington. It will be shown in Rockford, Ill. in April.

The exhibit has ″terrified and angered about 70 percent″ of its viewers, Mrs. Donachy said. ″About 10 percent have told me it makes them feel very secure and good that we have this many weapons. They feel safe.

″The rest feel ambivalent.

″I noticed in Europe, people were angry. They know how many nuclear weapons America has. In the United States, people tend to be incredulous. They say, ’Wow, that’s how many we have?‴

On Tuesday, many of the youngsters who watched the artist and several volunteers set up the exhibit appeared shocked and disturbed by the display, once they learned what it represented.

″At first I thought it was just ceramic spikes,″ said Shane Tresilen, 12. ″When I found out, it made me pretty scared. I didn’t think there were that many missiles. It’s going to kill everyone.″

″We should have peace,″ added Marco Champa, 11, a classmate. ″The Russians are scared too.″

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