Flights of Fancy
Global Traveler|Class Act 2021
Imaginative art installations take off at airports around the world.
RON BERNTHAL

During the 1990s, domestic and international travel increased dramatically in almost every region of the world. But when COVID-19 hit the travel industry in early 2020, airport managers gazed at empty terminals and parking lots and either stopped all construction work or took advantage of the suddenly quiet, traffic-free landscape to speed up expansion projects. For many airports, working through the pandemic meant they were able to complete their new runway and terminal projects, which included installing colorful new artwork that greeted millions of passengers in summer 2021 when TSA lines and flight schedules returned to pre-pandemic levels.

In New York City, LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B continued its $4 billion renovation through the pandemic. The project is the largest public-private partnership in U.S. aviation history according to LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the developer and operator of Terminal B. The revamped terminal now features soaring ceilings, natural light, enhanced security screening and some of the most exciting airport art in the country.

“We are thrilled to partner with New York City’s Public Art Fund on this innovative project to transform Terminal B into a modern, top-class airport terminal for travelers,” said Stewart Steeves, CEO, LaGuardia Gateway Partners. “Our goal in building a new Terminal B was to not only implement state-of-the-art advancements but also create a space that represents the soul of New York. We are confident that through this partnership, we have selected artists and unique pieces for the new terminal that reflect this vision.”

LaGuardia’s Terminal B artwork includes artist Sarah Sze’s powder-coated aluminum and steel Shorter Than the Day; Sabine Hornig’s La Guardia Vistas, composed of latex ink and vinyl mounted on glass; and Jeppe Hein’s beautiful aluminum red benches called All Your Wishes.

At Salt Lake City International, major expansion and innovation plans continued through 2020–2021. The current multibillion-dollar redevelopment program includes the demolition of the old terminals, the opening of a brand-new terminal in fall 2020 and the installation of large-scale artwork in the new terminal building. Unlike most airports that add tweaks and terminals piecemeal, SLC opted for a total rebuild, making the airport “the only truly new 21st-century airport in the country,” according to Billy Wyatt, executive director, Salt Lake City Department of Airports.

Some of the new art installations at the new SLC terminal include The Falls and The Canyon, which help to “celebrate the natural beauty of Utah,” said artist Gordon Huether. “We are delivering a totally immersive, inspired and powerful experience to all that enter here.”

The 400-foot by 22-foot Canyon features tensile membrane fins comprised of aluminum tubing and composite fabric, and The Falls, a 65-foot installation, hangs six stories from the terminal ceiling to the floor.

The SLC terminal also offers mid-concourse Tunnel Murals by local artist Traci O’Very Covey and Texas-based artist DAAS. Each artist painted two 144-foot murals that bring Utah’s four seasons to life. O’Very Covey created the summer and fall murals while DAAS created the winter and spring murals. “I love painting large-scale murals,” said O’Very Covey. “The mural art I create conveys multifaceted themes in symbolic ways as filtered through my imagination.”

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