© 2023 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

These Public Art Projects Are Frontrunners For The New KCI Terminal Slated To Open In 2023

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The retail node inside the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport will house restaurants and shops as well as artwork including a $1.2 million fountain-inspired sculpture.

Nick Cave, best known for his Soundsuits that combine fashion and sculpture, is one of the artists selected for a public art commission at the new KCI.

The Municipal Art Commission on Friday approved the first four artworks for the largest public art project in Kansas City history at the new Kansas City International Airport. The City Council will make the final endorsement at a later date.

Work is at a halfway point to replace KCI's three-terminal complex with a single, $1.5 billion terminal and parking garage scheduled to open in 2023. The city's one percent for art program calls for 1% of public construction costs to be set aside for public art.

The finalists, selected during a rigorous process, include:

Check-In Hall Ceiling: Nick Cave, "The Air Up There"

nick caev.JPG
courtesy: Municipal Art Commission
A screenshot of the conceptual proposal for Nick Cave's "The Air Up Here" at the new terminal at KCI.

Artist Nick Cave's proposal for the check-in hall ceiling, "The Air Up There," is an expansion of an installation at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, which was also on view at the Momentary in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Public art administrator James Martin described the work as a "forest of colorful metal spinners that would hang from the ceiling." Cave, he said, "envisions making use of reflective ceiling surface. So the spinners will create an expansive and unending infinity-life feeling."

Martin added, "From my perspective, the selection panelists were quite drawn to the awe-inspiring scale, the colorful nature of the work, and the inclusion of some local icons."

Cave, who is based in Chicago, has ties to the area: He grew up in Fulton, Missouri, and attended the Kansas City Art Institute.

The spinners proposed for KCI would also incorporate imagery of local plants and animals, such as the Dogwood or American bullfrog, and historical or local personalities.

The commission is for $1 million.

Escalator to Baggage Claim: Soo Sunny Park, "Molten Swing"

courtesy Municipal Art Commission
A screenshot of a conceptual proposal of Soo Sunny Park's "Molten Swing" at the new terminal at KCI.

Artist Soo Sunny Park uses light as a sculptural material, working with stainless steel chain-link fencing, as well as dichroic glass. She described her proposal, "Molten Swing," as paying homage to jazz pianist and bandleader Benny Moten "who in his short life helped Kansas City jazz transform American music."

Martin relayed that Park, a Korean-American artist with a faculty appointment at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, said her research on Kansas City made her realize that "what jazz does with music, my work tries to do with space."

He added that the artist points out that, depending on the direction you're looking, the artwork "provides a sense of movement throughout the day through continuous shifts of color, varying chroma, reflectivity, and translucency."

Park's commission is for $700,000.

Node A: Nassia Inglessis, "Fountain of Resonance"

fountain 2.JPG
courtesy Municipal Art Commission
A screenshot of a conceptual proposal of Nassia Inglessis' "Fountain of Resonance" at the new terminal of KCI.

Artist, engineer and designer Nassia Inglessis is based in London, England, and Athens, Greece. Her $1.2 million commission, "Fountain of Resonance," takes inspiration from waveforms — it's a kinetic work with a motor, which allows visitor interactions.

"As certain moments, as the work moves," Martin describes, "(it) reminds me of water flowing over rocks or some kind of surface."

The work is reflective, so light and shadow will be viewed throughout the Node A area.

Martin said the artist described fountains as "a point of gathering in the public space, a place for interaction and exchange of ideas, perspectives, endeavors, and activity." And, flying, she said, connects us to the world in the same way.

Node B: Neil Chambers, Lillian Cho and Willie Cole, "Ornithology"

courtesy Municipal Art Commission
A screenshot of one of the slides detailing the conceptual proposal for Neil Chambers, Lillian Cho and Willie Cole's work "Ornithology" at the new terminal at KCI.

A trio of artists — Neil Chambers, Lillian Cho and Willie Cole — proposed a "cultural installation that embraces Kansas City's rich musical legacy and its bounty of ecological wonders," as Martin described.

Alto saxophones, with a nod to jazz saxophonist Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, are combined into sculptural bird forms. A flock of 11 of these sculptures would then be suspended from the ceiling, and sound would be used to "reference time and place."

"Travelers passing through Node B would hear sounds of migrating or Missouri birds," said Martin, such as Eastern Bluebirds in the spring and hummingbirds in the summer.

The Node B commission is for $500,000.

After working with KCI on engineering, safety and code requirements, the final proposals for these four artworks will go to the City Council for approval.

There have been two calls for artists, to date. The Commission is scheduled to vote on the second round of finalists in June. Those works will be for areas calling for large-scale ceramics, sculptural installations, lighting, and experiential artwork — including the stairwell and arrivals roadway of the parking garage.

The third call for wall-mounted and portable artworks in the two concourses will be opened on April 19. This pool of applicants will be limited to artists who live in the Kansas City metro area — or ones with ties to Kansas City.

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.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make nonprofit journalism available for everyone.