Airport operator Houston Airports has unveiled 10 artworks, with the theme ‘Hope and Resilience’, at George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P Hobby Airport in Texas.
The Civic Art Program of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) called for qualified artists to design, fabricate and install 10 major permanent works at Bush and Hobby airports. The City of Houston and Houston Airports teamed to fund the art investment. The 10 commissions were intended to enable the city to support the creative community at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and improve both the equity and representation of artists to reflect Houston and Texas. By August 2020, 1,051 applications were submitted. Artists began working on their commissions in August 2021 with eight of 10 commissions completed in early December 2022.
Among the applicants chosen was Xavier Schipani. His idea for a mural composed of diverse figures designed in cool hues of blue for the IAH Terminal B Skyway impressed the selection panel. Artist William Canning was selected to suspend nearly three dozen inflated steel cloud forms above HOU gate 50, his design encouraging travelers to look up into the painted, pearlized clouds before departing on their flight.
Additionally, the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, UNESCO, officially endorsed Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee’s immersive installation in an IAH Connector Tunnel. A mural stretching the entire length of the 240ft-tunnel is inspired by a coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico. Custom carpet, lighting and a social media filter transport travelers to the Flower Garden Banks Marine National Sanctuary.
Animalis Works sculpted a work inspired by the history of flight. The 2,500 reflective crystal glass spheres embedded in the sculpture have been designed to catch the light and the attention of travelers as they enter a security screening area at Hobby Airport. If travelers study the free-standing piece, they’ll notice it is formed in the shape of a wing.
Funds for the permanent work of public arts at Houston’s airports were allocated by a City of Houston ordinance which mandates that 1.75% of qualified and applicable Capital Improvement Project dollars be set aside for civic art. These funds are generated by the Houston Airport’s Enterprise Fund – a non-taxpayer, self-sustaining fund of the city. Under contract and in partnership with MOCA, Houston Arts Alliance administers these city-funded public opportunities to acquire and conserve the City of Houston’s public art pieces.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, “During a time of uncertainty the City of Houston offered hope and support. This is an unprecedented investment from our Civic Art Program and quite timely as interest and demand for public art has only increased. We find ourselves now in a world that understands, more deeply, what art and artists bring to our lives and to our collective well-being. Together, these commissions represent and demonstrate inspired work from a diverse group of artists, mediums and subject matter.”
Mario Diaz, director of aviation for Houston Airports, said, “Not only does art help to create a sense of place in our terminals. Art also provides an unexpected connection that has the power to influence each passenger long after they’re left our airports. Art is inspiring. With the unveiling of these 10 commissioned pieces, I’m proud to say that Houston Airports is inspiring, too. Not only does art help to create a sense of place in our terminals, art also provides an unexpected connection that has the power to influence each passenger long after they’re left our airports.”