Catch Culture on the Fly with Florida Airport Art
By Jodi Mailander Farrell
Flight delayed? A long layover, missed flight or early arrival might be the perfect excuse to take in an art exhibit or check out one of the magnificent public art works integrated into Florida’s 20 international and regional airports.
Airport art programs in the Sunshine State introduce more than 76 million visitors a year to Florida’s thriving art economy. Whether it’s ocean-inspired tile designs beneath your feet or a restored 1930s New Deal mural above your head, keep an eye out for Florida culture if you want to make time fly between flights.
Miami International Airport
“Harmonic Convergence” colored hallway, by Christopher Janney
For art lovers coming to town for Art Basel Miami Beach in November or for year-round cultural events, the experience begins for many at Miami international Airport with “Harmonic Convergence,” a 72-foot-long interactive sound and light installation by American sound architect Christopher Janney. The wall of diamond-shaped glass panes in 150 transparent colors gradually changes patterns. Speakers installed at intervals along the walkway create a continuously changing “sonic portrait” of South Florida, playing sounds of tropical birds, thunderstorms and other native sounds. Video sensors track movement, causing changes in the density and composition of the sound piece relative to the number of passengers in the space. At the top of each hour, a short composition with percussion instruments plays, marking the time of day. Janney’s rainbow-like work was recognized by Americans for the Arts in 2012 as one of the nation’s exemplary public art projects.
Where: On the MIA Mover that leads to the Rental Car Center.
Discover more: Learn about the airport’s other Art & Exhibitions
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
“Rainbow’s End” terrazzo floor, by David Griggs and Scott Parsons
Travelers passing through Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport stride over swirling galaxies and starfish – all part of the 79,500-square-foot terrazzo floor design called “Rainbow’s End,” a meditation on distances traveled and the larger human journey. The tile mosaics by David Griggs and Scott Parsons are inspired by South Florida beauty, the writing of John Steinbeck and Loren Eiseley’s essay “The Star Thrower.” Numerous mirrored and mother-of-pearl shell pieces in the floor are meant to evoke the reflection of stars on the surface of water. The end of the concourse concludes with an amazing array of starfish covering a beach.
Where: In the pre-security area in Terminal 3 by Concourse F.
Discover more: Lee Wagener Gallery in Terminal 2 showcases a rotation of local artists’ work, available for purchase. Find a listing of public art in the airport here.
Orlando International Airport
“Traveler” sculpture by Duane Hanson
Detailed and realistic, Duane Hanson’s tired “Traveler,” commissioned by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, joined Orlando International Airport’s collection in 1986. The piece is now housed in a protective box because so many people touched it to check if it was a real person. The lifelike sculpture wears blue running shorts and a pink mesh top. The character sits on the floor with his legs extended, his head supported on his right hand and arm, which is propped on two flight bags set one atop the other. The hair on his head and his mustache are real human hair; the clothes also are real, but the 250-pound body is made of bronze and painted with flesh tones of acrylic – down to the scrape on the left knee. Hanson, who moved to Florida from New York City in 1973, focused much of his art on representing familiar and ordinary Americans, such as tourists, shoppers and sunbathers. He was interested in depicting the commonplace in uncommon ways. Although his realism was sometimes unflattering or even brutal, his stated intention was to ennoble his subjects by turning them into art, freezing their ordinary activities to portray lifelike figures enduring their fates with dignity and courage. Hanson died in Boca Raton after a long battle with cancer in 1996.
Where: Near the Starbuck’s on the third level beneath Champ’s Plaza.
Discover more: Learn about other works of art in Orlando’s airport here.
Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers
“Visions of Beauty — Fort Myers, Sanibel & Beyond,” images by photographer Alan S. Maltz
Designated the “Official Wildlife Photographer of Florida” by the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Alan S. Maltz captures the natural charms of old Fort Myers and the barrier islands, as well as regional destinations, such as Bonita Springs, Boca Grande and Cayo Costa. In 2004, Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau and the Lee County Port Authority commissioned Maltz to create a permanent exhibit of 60 fine art images that now rotate throughout Southwest Florida International Airport. The large-format (72-by-52-inch) pieces depict the beauty, wildlife and man-made marvels of Florida’s Southwest.
Where: Throughout Midfield Terminal.
Discover more: Learn more about “Art in Flight,” which showcases Southwest Florida artists at the airport, here. Maltz has a gallery in Key West, where his photographs and books can be purchased.
Tampa International Airport
“The Art of Flight” murals by George Snow Hill
In the late 1930s, the Works Progress Administration commissioned St. Petersburg artist George Snow Hill to create murals to adorn Tampa’s new airport, which itself was a WPA project. His seven oil-on-canvas paintings depict the development of flight, dating all the way back to Archimedes and paying tribute to Icarus and Daedalus, the Montgolfier brothers, Otto Lilienthal, Tony Jannus and the Wright brothers. When the airport was demolished in 1965, most of the murals were put into storage. Mildewed and moldy, they were eventually restored and hung inside the new Tampa International Airport, where spaces were specifically built to showcase them. Hill, who died in 1969, was one of the most prolific muralists in Florida, with commissions in post offices, courthouses and government buildings.
Where: Airside E Terminal.
Discover more: A display in Terminal E explains the history of the murals, their removal from the original airport, two restorations and installation in the current terminal. A description of each mural can be found here. With a public inventory of 30 different collections, the airport’s Public Art Committee is commissioning new artwork for a historic expansion.
Jacksonville International Airport
“Migration of the Paper Airplanes” sculpture by David Engdahl
Supported by a runway of stainless steel cables, 150 aluminum “paper airplanes” by Jacksonville sculptor and architect David Engdahl soar through the air at Jacksonville International Airport. The planes, powder-coat painted bright red, blue and yellow, capture the childlike excitement of flight and enliven the overhead space in one of the airport’s parking garages. The entire piece, called “Migration of the Paper Airplanes” and installed in 2004, is 160 feet long and eight to 12 feet in width. Engdahl’s laminated wood sculptures have been showcased all over the world in the U.S. embassies of Bahrain, Latvia, Angola and Zimbabwe.
Where: Third floor of the Parking Garage, above the moving sidewalk.
Discover more: Along with permanent installations, the airport has its own Haskell Gallery, located pre-security. Its exhibits of works by Northeast Florida artists, along with descriptions of other art work throughout the airport.