October 25, 2014

Elyria
Partly cloudy with showers
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Flights of imagination

Airports try to boost tourism, comfort travelers with unique displays of art

James Hannah
The Associated Press
A mesmerizing amoeba-like glass sculpture titled “Swell” that looks like an ocean wave. Colorful images of pelicans, crabs and other waterlife. Strands of light-reflecting glass suspended from a cable that creates a rainbow effect.
A visit to the art museum?
Nope — a stroll through the airport.
More and more airports around the nation are using art to boost tourism, polish the image of their host community and soothe passengers in what can be a stressful environment.
“You’ve got a captive audience,” said Greg Mamary, producer of special projects for the American Association of Airport Executives. “It’s just become a very trendy thing.”
The Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina opened an art gallery June 1 featuring 47 paintings and sculptures from local artists, including the ocean-like “Swell.” There already are plans to expand the gallery.
Dayton International Airport in Ohio will begin hanging paintings, displaying sculptures and possibly staging musical performances this fall.
The Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, damaged by Hurricane Katrina, will begin displaying art when renovations are completed in September. Pottery, paintings and wall-wrap art of pelicans and other local waterfowl are on tap.
“For us, it’s huge because we lost so much identity and culture due to the hurricane,” said Jeremiah Gerald, air service development manager of the Mississippi airport.
Smaller airports are jumping on a bandwagon that many larger airports have been riding for years.
About 300 pieces of art can be seen at Atlanta’s airport, including a large display of stone sculptures from Zimbabwe. In the baggage area, giant lifelike ants appear to emerge from a hole in the ceiling and crawl over the ductwork — a metaphor for the anthill-like flurry of airport activity.
The Phoenix airport boasts 500 pieces of art in 24 areas, a collection that has been steadily growing. The rental-car area boasts the strands-of-light-reflecting-glass artwork.
Lennee Eller, program manager of the Phoenix Airport Museum, said many airports are just launching art programs. She calls it the “artport” phenomenon.
“We’re at the verge of really developing an industry. We’ve convinced the powers that be that we’re cool,” Eller said. “I have 42 million passengers a year. There is no other museum in Arizona that has that kind of audience.”