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Stuck-At-Home Residents Can Help Shape The Direction Of Kansas City Airport's New Public Art

Courtesy SOM and Edgemoor Architecture & Real Estate
The new terminal and parking garage at Kansas City International Airport is scheduled to open in 2023.

"What stories do we want the art to convey at KCI?"

That's one of the questions people can answer in an online survey about public art at the Kansas City International Airport’s new $1.5 billion terminal and parking garage, which is still scheduled to open in 2023.

The project has a budget of $5.65 million for art, making it the largest One Percent for Art project in the city’s history. Ultimately a selection panel will make proposals to the Municipal Art Commission, and final approval rests with the Kansas City City Council for contracts more than $400,000.

It's still too early to consider specific proposals, but city leaders were just about to invite the public to participate in the process at a series of meetings in mid-March. Those meetings were canceled due the mayor's coronavirus-fighting stay-at-home orders.

"We scrambled to come up with an alternative plan," says James Martin, the city's public art administrator. "There had been plans to have the survey portion of it available online, and so this was just a process of making the survey portion of it more robust."

The online survey does not ask people to evaluate pieces of art. Rather, it asks for a bit of soul searching with questions such as "Describe an art experience at an airport that is most memorable to you."

Credit Courtesy SOM and Edgemoor Architecture & Real Estate
The new KCI terminal, a 1-million square foot structure, is H-shaped and features a massive parking garage next door to the entrance.

Also in March, the executive team — KCI project team, Municipal Art Commission members and others — selected visual artists David Ford and Shaun Hamontree, musicians Erin McGrane and Greg Carroll, and dance and movement artist Jade Osborne as new project advisory artists.

Rather than attending in-person meetings, Martin says, the artists pivoted to help develop the survey questions along with consulting artist Holly Hayden, who's contracted with the owner's representative for the airport, Paslay Management Group (PMG).

An online presentation provides an overview of the city's One Percent for Art program and the role of art in airports, while the survey (in English and in Spanish) includes multiple choice and more open-ended questions. 

"And with people sheltering in place with a stay at home order and the state of emergency," Martin says, "perhaps there is time to do an online survey."

The artist team is working closely with art consultants Community Arts International (CAI) as part of the planning team to assess potential spaces for the artwork in the single terminal and the new parking garage, and to provide feedback for a report that CAI will be producing for airport designers Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Martin said.

"That report is due at the end of April, so it'll be a fairly quick turnaround."

People don't have to be residents of Kansas City, Missouri, to participate. Anyone with access to the survey can fill it out before April 20. About 50 to 60 area residents had been expected to attend each of the three public meetings, Martin says, so they're hoping to have at least 150 people, if not more, fill out the survey. 

"I'm really thrilled that we're able to keep the momentum going," he says. "You know, I think this notion of having a more public knowledge about what's happening at the airport in terms of public art and the desire there has been for the public to provide feedback has been great. So to finally be able to put this out there in a way that's going to be helpful and impactful is very satisfying."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify Holly Hayden's role and the selection team for the new project advisory artists. 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can follow 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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