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New KCI Airport Terminal To Feature Largest Public Art Project In Kansas City History

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)
KCI's new terminal, the most expensive infrastructure project in Kansas City's history, will also be the site of the city's biggest public art project.

The project will feature 10 unique works from artists around the globe

The Kansas City International Airport's new terminal is expected to be completed in 2023, and visitors upon landing will be welcomed by the largest public art project in Kansas City history.

The city has launched a global search for artists to create 10 unique installations throughout the $1.5 billion new terminal and parking garage.

Earlier, the city commissioned a team of local artists to study plans for the new structures and identify the best locations for public art throughout the complex.

The project, spearheaded by the Municipal Art Commission, aims to gather artists from across the region, country and world to achieve "a mix of local and global art."

“The art team has made it clear that our goals are diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of the art program,” public art administrator James Martin said. "The public art at Kansas City International Airport should reflect our city’s diverse demographics and be welcoming to travelers of all backgrounds.”

The new projects will be part of Kansas City’s “One Percent for Art” program. Found in more than 300 other U.S. cities and counties, the program requires 1 percent of public construction costs to be set aside for public art enhancements.

At KCI, panels of artists, aviation professionals and representatives from the community will select artists for each of the 10 projects.

The widespread involvement differs from most public art selection processes, Martin said. Usually, members of a single panel evaluate all projects, to promote cohesiveness within the art.

“It was really important to us to be more inclusive,” Martin said. “Now we’ll have many more people in the public involved in the process of selecting the artists.”

While this means it’s uncertain if and how each installation will relate to one another, Martin said the uncertainty is by design.

“That’s one of the beauties of public art. You can never tell exactly what kind of creative responses you’ll get,” he said.

The new terminal is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023, replacing the current three-terminal complex with a single terminal and 6,000-space garage.

To follow the KCI public art timeline, visit buildkci.com/art.

Lucas Cuni-Mertz is a news intern at KCUR 89.3.
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