Saturday, May 7, 2011

Airports cater to art lovers with intriguing installations

Saturday, May 7, 2011

If you enjoy spending your leisure time visiting art galleries, but instead end up wasting time in airports, you're in luck. This season, many airports around the country are hosting intriguing temporary exhibitions and unveiling new permanent public artwork that can turn a long layover into a cultural adventure. Or at least keep you from getting bored.

  • The kites in

    Courtesy Jacksonville International Airport

    The kites in "Kites and Flights," on display at Florida's Jacksonville International Airport, depict birds, insects, clouds, airplanes, balloons, rockets and other flying objects.

Courtesy Jacksonville International Airport

The kites in "Kites and Flights," on display at Florida's Jacksonville International Airport, depict birds, insects, clouds, airplanes, balloons, rockets and other flying objects.

Here are some highlights:


At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, you'll soon find an exhibit of couture fashions made entirely from trash by Nancy Judd of Recycle Runway.

Included among the 18 pieces is an outfit commissioned by Delta Air Lines that Judd has dubbed "Environmental Steward-ess." The vintage-style flight attendant uniform, which includes a hat and purse, is made from worn-out leather seat covers from Delta planes. The purse, made by Tierra Ideas, has a liner made from recycled wool curtains. The best part: The cape, which was inspired by Wonder Woman's invisible plane from early comic book days, is made from outdated seatback safety cards, discarded pretzel bags, old plane tickets and past issues of Sky Magazine.

Find it: The Recycle Runway exhibit opens April 18th and continues until April 2012 in nine cases on Atlanta International Airport's Concourse E. A video about Recycle Runway will also run on the airport's CNN channel at each gate.

San Francisco 

The recently rebranded SFO Museum already maintains about 20 exhibit spaces throughout San Francisco International Airport. The museum gets yet another gallery to program in the renovated Terminal 2, which opens to the flying public on April 14th. The first exhibition is as shiny as the new terminal and features bronze candlesticks, pewter and sterling silver bowls and more than one hundred other extraordinary examples of silver and metalwork design and craftsmanship from throughout the world.

Find it: A Century of Silver and Metalwork from the Margo Grant Walsh Collection is post-security in SFO Terminal 2 through October 2, 2011. For those not traveling on American Airlines or Virgin America, the two airlines with gates in T2, there is an online exhibition.


Travelers can get a dose of the Everglades the only place where alligators and crocodiles co-exist in the wild at Miami International Airport, which is displaying 26 large-format photographs featuring the reserve's wildlife and lush landscapes. The photos were taken by a half-dozen photographers who had the opportunity to live and work in the park's subtropical environment for a month as part of the Everglades National Park's Artist-in-Residence program.

Find it: The 26 large-scale photographs in Experience the Everglades are in the international arrivals corridor in the North Terminal through December, 2011.

St. Louis 

Plenty of site-specific art will be part of the $50 million in renovations taking place at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport's historic Terminal 1. Among the first commissioned pieces to be installed will be art glass screens with work by nine local artists featuring images that include eagles, soaring clouds, historic quilt patterns, local river paths and other images. Four art glass screens are being installed this month; five more screens will be installed this summer.

Find it: When installed, the art screens will be at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport's Terminal 1, on Concourses A and C.


The theme of flight figures into both the new permanent aerial sculpture and a temporary art installation at Florida's Jacksonville International Airport. The arcs in the site-specific Sky Bridges relate to the air-flight paths of takeoffs and landings, and to the many bridges in the Jacksonville area. The kites in Kites and Flights depict birds, insects, clouds, airplanes, balloons, rockets and other flying objects. Both projects are by Melanie Walker and George Peters.

Find it: Sky Bridges hangs from the ceiling of the airport's renovated connector bridge. Look for Kites and Flights in the Haskell Gallery in Jacksonville International Airport's courtyard through June 2011.

Portland, Ore. 

As part of a fresh series of exhibits highlighting work by Northwest artists, Oregon's Portland International Airport is currently showing Fractal Art by Sara McCormick, who uses mathematical formulas to create digital art replicating patterns of leaves, snowflakes, DNA and other objects found in nature.

Find it: McCormick's Fractal Art is on view at Portland International Airport's Concourse B through October 10, 2011.


In early April, New York's Albany International Airport kicked off Keeping Time, an exhibition in which seven artists explore nostalgia with "an eye for its intimate, humorous and often bittersweet nature," says Sharon Bates, director of the airport's art and culture program. Included in the show are paintings, several large site-specific installations and collages made from old paint-by-number paintings.

Find it: Keeping Time is on display in the Albany airport's third-floor, pre-security gallery through September 5, 2011.


Robert Brubaker's ceramic, anthropomorphic animals are featured in a current exhibit at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Although the local weather rarely calls for such warm clothing, the birds, ram, monkey and other animals featured in Big Coats are wrapped in ceramic versions of brightly colored, woolen Western-style blanket coats.

Find it: The eight ceramic animal sculptures in Big Coats are on display in Terminal 3 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport through September 4, 2011.


And at Denver International Airport be on the lookout, matey, for ten recently installed, life-size pirate mannequins. Entertaining and photogenic on their own, the pirates are there to help promote a new exhibition at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Real Pirates: the Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship explores the classical age of piracy and includes swords, gold, jewelry and more than 200 other artifacts recovered from the first authenticated pirate ship discovered in U.S. waters

Find it: The life-size pirate mannequins at Denver International Airport are on the level 5 baggage claim and Level 6 ticketing areas through August, 2011.

Not traveling to or through these airports? We've put together a slide show of some of the artwork mentioned here. Many other airports around the country feature temporary and permanent artwork as well, so next time you face a long layover or flight delay, don't just sit there: Go exploring!

Read previous columns

Harriet Baskas writes about travel etiquette for and is the author of the airport guidebook Stuck at the Airport and a blog of the same name.

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