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Here's What $5 Million In Public Art At KCI's New Terminal Could Look Like

courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)
An architectural rendering of the new terminal at KCI slated to open in 2023.

The new $1.5 billion terminal at Kansas City International Airport will be the largest single infrastructure project in the city’s history. And that construction budget translates to a lot of money for public art.

"The budget is $5.6 million for the terminal and the garage," Municipal Art Commission chair Kathy Achelpohl, an architect with PGAV Architects, said at the monthly meeting at City Hall on July 1. "And I understood that the budget was based on 1% of vertical construction costs."

Previously, the city's most expensive public art commission was $1.3 million for Chris Doyle's "The Moons," the video project installed outside the Sprint Center in 2007. 

The Art Commission was established by city charter in the 1920s, and its members are volunteers, most appointed by the mayor, who vote on works of art on city property — from paintings to murals to fountains. They also oversee the program that sets aside 1% of city construction costs for public art. 

But the city has been without a public arts administrator, a dedicated staff member with public art expertise, for about a year. 

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, or SOM, an international architecture firm, is part of the team designing the new terminal at KCI, and they've worked on other aviation projects.

In July, SOM architect Jordan Pierce provided some highlights to the commission on what public art in the new terminal could look like. 

Here are a few examples: 

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport

Credit Cintas
Many of the restrooms at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport feature mosaic art with a Minnesota theme created by regional artists.

Since 2008, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Foundation has administered the airport's arts program. An arts and culture master plan maps out the vision, including temporary and permanent artwork as well as performances. The airport has a lot of bathrooms, more than 300, and many of the art installations can be found there. 

"Minneapolis bills itself as having the greatest airport bathrooms in the world. And they are very good airport bathrooms," Pierce said.

"But one of the strategies that they took to incorporate art into the building was to have all the back walls, all the feature walls of the restrooms, be these mosaics, each executed by different artists."

The airport expects to complete renovations of all the airport's restrooms, including the mosaics, by 2025. 

Pierce described it as an "unusual way" to incorporate art into the building. But, he added, "it's an opportunity to have it be a really integral part of the passenger experience."

Oakland International Airport

Credit Courtesy Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport
'Going Away Coming Home,' a work by Oakland, California, artist Hung Liu, includes 80 hand-painted red-crowned cranes, which are considered symbols of luck and prosperity. The work is located in Oakland International Airport's Terminal 2 concourse.

The Oakland International Airport established a partnership in 1999 with the Oakland Museum of California to oversee the public art and exhibition programs at that city's airport. 

"So the staff at the Oakland Museum of California does curation,"  Pierce said. "They help with installation, they work with the artists individually."

Visitors are able to view artwork as they pass through security as well as in the baggage claim area. 

San Diego International Airport

Credit courtesy San Diego International Airport
Artist Mark Riegelman's 'Formation' on the facade of a parking structure at San Diego International Airport.

San Diego International Airport'sarts program has both permanent and temporary art installations. 

According to Pierce, the airport also offers an annual artist-in-residence program "that brings dance, live music, a whole variety of different events that take place in the terminal throughout the year." 

"The other thing that's unique about San Diego is that they also have an arts master plan that they've created," he said.

San Francisco International Airport

Credit courtesy San Francisco International Airport
Visitors experience Keith Sonnier's 'Ceiling Flood' as they walk along a corridor in San Francisco International Airport.

The approach was slightly different at San Francisco International Airport, which offerstwo art programs including its own cultural institution called SFO Museum

"We provided gallery spaces within the terminal," Pierce said. "So they're rotating exhibits that are curated by the staff of SFO, where they show different works from other museums that are on loan, or local artists. They have opportunity to curate them as they see fit. They are integrated into the building itself."

Pierce said the SFO Museum now has a $3 million annual budget and about 30 staff on hand. 

"And so they have two paths that they take," he said. "One is the incorporation of installations with the capital improvement projects, a similar percent-for-art program [through the San Francisco Arts Commission] that allows them to bring in new pieces of work as they change the terminal. But they also have this SFO program where they have limited and temporary exhibitions that rotate over time."

Toronto Pearson International Airport

Credit courtesy Toronto's Pearson International Airport
Artist Sol LeWitt's 'Wall Drawing 1100, Concentric Bands,' in Terminal 1 at Pearson International Airport.

An arts consultant, who reached out to international and Canadian artists, developed the art program at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. 

"Here the approach is really to very deeply integrate the art with the terminal," Pierce said.

"So you can see the Sol LeWitt piece, or the Richard Serra, they were centrally located, integrated with the architecture, really thought of as being a portion of the design of the building itself." 

In August, SOM returns to the Municipal Art Commission with a "heat map" for the new terminal at KCI, which Pierce said will identify "opportunities throughout the terminal, the type of art installations that they can bring in to the terminal, and projecting those out into the future as the terminal continues to grow."

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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