Tyler Hoare’s Red Baron sculpture was saved Thursday by Emeryville’s Public Works crew and city officials. Photo: City of Emeryville

Update, May 5, 7:25 p.m. An update on the Red Baron from the E’ville Eye community news website: Berkeley artist Tyler Hoare is planning to replace the sculpture Saturday. As reported by the E’ville Eye, “Hoare estimated that he’s on his 30th or so iteration of this installation that goes back decades. Hoare clearly has no sentimental attachment to them. ‘If somebody wants to save it, they can, but it’s in pretty bad shape. It’s not going in a museum!'”

Original story, May 4, 3:56 p.m. An iconic piece of public art — Tyler Hoare’s latest Red Baron sculpture — was saved from the San Francisco Bay on Thursday afternoon after it collapsed into the waters in Emeryville recently.

Hoare, who lives in Berkeley, has been crafting and installing his whimsical and much-loved creations — some of which have been inspired by the Peanuts comics — in Berkeley and along the Emeryville shoreline near I-80 for decades.

Tom Francis McGurk, Emeryville deputy city clerk, told Berkeleyside early Thursday that city officials would be trying to save the plane in the afternoon: “A lot of locals here, such as myself, grew up with that artwork and consider it to be a historical landmark in our memories. Just recently, that particular plane went down into the waters; the wood pole that the plane had sat on all these years had rotted away.”

Emeryville Mayor Scott Donahue and Vice Mayor John Bauters, along with Public Works Director Maurice Kaufman and his crew, set out at 2 p.m. to bring in the Red Baron.

Bauters told Berkeleyside at about 3:10 p.m. that the rescue had been successful: “As a long time ‘Peanuts’ and Snoopy fan I am also happy that Snoopy finally won the battle, successfully defending Emeryville from the Red Baron.”  (The Snoopy plane is still standing.)

Bauters said the art piece “is so badly damaged from weather exposure that it barely held together as we worked to dislodge it from the mud. One of the wings suffered damage as we carried it out of the mudflats. The current plan is to leave it beachside by its accompanying piece.”

The team shared some photographs of the rescue with Berkeleyside. They appear below.

Wading out into the bay to save the Red Baron. Photo: City of Emeryville
The Red Baron was mounted on a wooden post that collapsed. Photo: City of Emeryville
The Red Baron was mounted on a wooden post that collapsed. Photo: City of Emeryville
Mayor Scott Donahue (in the beige hat) and Vice Mayor John J. Bauters were part of the Red Baron rescue team. Photo: City of Emeryville

Hoare installed the most recent Red Baron in Emeryville in 2012. Over the years, he says there have been dozens of them, though he has lost count.

Part of the challenge he has faced is that the wooden posts and pilings he’s always used to mount his art have slowly been disappearing.

“They’re in such bad shape now, my friends say, ‘Don’t you dare climb up on that.’ I’m surprised I outlived the posts,” Hoare previously told Berkeleyside. “When they go, I won’t have anywhere to put anything.”

It’s unclear whether the Red Baron could rise again, given the collapse of its piling, or if this is the end for the longtime public art treasure.

Bauters said it’s possible Hoare already has a replacement in the works. He continued: “We welcome the spirit of local artists to our city and are also excited that Emeryville is a semi finalist to win a special art district designation from the State Arts Council.”

Retired photographer Bob Colin created a short film of the 2012 Red Baron installation. It appears below.

YouTube video

Snoopy in the Sopwith Camel at the Emeryville waterfront in 2012. Photo: Emilie Raguso
The Red Baron in Emeryville in 2012. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...