An exhibit like "The Boneyard Project" doesn't just happen - it takes planning, money and luck.
Here's how it played out for the key figures in bringing the exhibit to the Pima Air & Space Museum.
Eric Firestone, Project creator
It all started in December 2010.
Firestone was at Art Basel Miami Beach, a massive art show that pulls together art, artists and galleries from around the world.
"I was working with a lot of street artists there," said Firestone, who has a gallery in Tucson as well as one in East Hampton on New York's Long Island.
"I started thinking about concepts that would push the envelope," he said.
"I spent all my adult life in Tucson and in the desert, so I thought about the boneyards."
The boneyard - a generic name for most scrap yards - is what Tucsonans call the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. It's where government planes are sent to be rejuvenated, or to be sold as scrap.
"I started playing around with the idea" of a new kind of canvas for artists, he said.
"Carlo (McCormick, who curated the exhibit) and I came up with the concept. I wanted to paint the planes really badly, then came up with the nose cones idea."
Firestone went to a private salvage yard in Tucson and purchased nose cones, which he sent to artists for what would become a show in at his gallery in East Hampton. He also e bought five planes.
"I didn't know what would happen; it was just an idea," says Firestone, who financed the project himself. He wouldn't disclose the cost.
Last summer he and McCormick opened "Nose Job," which featured 24 cones transformed by artists with national and international reputations.
Meanwhile, Firestone began to plan for something bigger.
He brought artists to Tucson to paint the five planes he had bought.
He loved what they were doing.
Still, he had no idea where it would all go.
Carlo McCormick, Curator
"Firestone is a bit of a dreamer and schemer," said McCormick, an author, art critic and freelance curator known for his savvy knowledge of popular culture and contemporary art.
"He gets these wild ideas and is willing to mortgage the farm to do them."
When Firestone approached him about this off-the-wall idea of using airplane scraps as canvas, McCormick wasn't impressed.
"I didn't think it was a good idea," he said, speaking from his Brooklyn home after spending time in Tucson setting up the exhibit.
"The art world does a lot of recycling in different ways - objects and ideas get reprocessed. But I didn't want to end up with a trashy effect."
Then Firestone showed him the nose cones.
"When I saw them, I could wrap my mind around these beautiful shapes. Realizing that, and what incredible canvases these could be for artists - there are artists who work in public spaces and they have an ability to conquer something like that."
And then there was this: McCormick has always loved nose art, long popular with military planes.
"Artists, regardless of their background or medium, all know what nose art is. It's in our collective unconscious. The form is time-capsuled in comics and bikers and tattoos. ... It's a pure American folk art," he says.
"This (project) would be addressing nose art without asking them to do nose art."
For the first show in East Hampton last summer, McCormick put together a wish list of artists with market value who might be interested.
He didn't expect the response he got.
"I asked them all, and they all said 'yes.' "
When Firestone looked to bring the "Nose Job" show to the Tucson exhibit, they decided to expand the pool of artists.
"We were at first top-heavy on the big names," McCormick said.
"You don't do something this special to give good artists another opportunity. We mixed it up."
He sent invitations to street artists, graffiti artists, and emerging artists. There was nary a "no" in the bunch.
"I don't think anything like this has ever been done," said McCormick. "By scale or by artists."
Of course, he wasn't sure there would be life for it beyond the East Hampton show.
Scott Marchand, Pima air & Space Museum's Director of Collections & Aircraft Restoration
Scott Marchand was looking for spare airplane parts in a private salvage yard when he came across an artist painting an airplane.
"It was an incongruous thing to see," he recalled.
"I asked the yard owner what it was about and he said, 'Well, this dude from New York bought a couple planes and is flying artists out to paint them.'"
The dude was Firestone. Marchand gave the yard owner his card and asked him to pass it on.
"I was thinking it would be a different kind of thing to show visitors," he said, noting that he knew nothing about the nose cones at that point.
A couple of days passed, and then Firestone called. The two sat down for a cup of coffee.
"A few weeks later, things began to snowball," Marchand said.
But he had a hurdle to leap over: the nonprofit museum's governing board.
"I was enthusiastic the whole time," he said.
"But it was a tricky to introduce (to the board). This is something so new for a conventional museum organization. But everyone has warmed up."
As word of the show got out, press - local, national and international - began to take notice.
"I've been really pleased with the attention," Marchand said.
"One of the odd aspects of the museum is we get very low visitorship here - only about 15 percent of visitors are local audiences. But what's been great about this project is its appeal is really strong in the local community. And we've gotten a lot of attention from Phoenix and California, as well as inquires from Australia, Japan, Spain - from all over the place."
What's next for the exhibit
"I haven't thought about it," said Eric Firestone.
At this point, he said, the works are not for sale, nor would he disclose a price if he were to sell them.
Wherever the works are destined, it won't be easy - the planes would have to be transported by large flat trucks. Although more portable, a few of the nose cones weigh up to 200 pounds.
Don't expect to see those planes at the Pima Air & Space Museum after the exhibit closes.
"We are happy to exhibit them," said Marchand.
"But given the value of the art, I don't think we would ever be in a position to acquire them."
Did you know
Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the world's largest air and space museums, and the largest non-government funded aviation museum. Its collection includes more than 300 aircraft and spacecraft.
Source: Pima Air & Space Museum.