Billowing Bears

April 11, 2008

Pedestrians in New York City know that those metal grates on the sidewalks occasionally expel warm air, powered by passing subway trains. BFA Fine Arts Department student Joshua Allen Harris saw the subterranean gusts blowing a stray piece of plastic construction tape and got the idea for his latest public-art project, Air Bears. Constructed of carefully taped-together white plastic bags, the artworks look like piles of discarded detritus until a blast of air inflates them into freestanding plastic-bag polar bears, standing up and waving around in the wind. When the train-powered breeze dies down, the bears deflate down onto the steel vents.

The whimsical Air Bears, first posted on, a site dedicated to showcasing street art in cities around the world, are catching a lot of attention from both passersby and the media. On Monday, April 7, ABC’s Good Morning America ran an “Around the Watercooler” segment about Harris’ project (to view the segment, visit and search for “air bear” or click here), the Associated Press has sent a story out on the news wires, and videos of the bears are popping up on YouTube and on blogs like Gothamist and

Image: Joshua Allen Harris, Air Bear, 2008. Courtesy of the artist.

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