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:
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."
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's arts 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.
"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."
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.