SEVEN ARTWORKS WELCOME TRAVELERS TO HOBBY'S NEW INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL
Alex Irrera, Civic Art + Design Assistant
Whether arriving by plane, bus, or car, people visiting our city are immediately greeted by art. Houston’s main airports — Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) — are primary sites of this “artistic welcome.” Bush and Hobby are home to some of Houston’s most conspicuous public art pieces such as the LED-lit Radiant Fountains by Dennis Oppenheim (IAH) and the nest-like Take-off by Carter Ernst and Paul Kittelson (HOU). They also house a selection of permanent and “portable” works, which rotate throughout display cases inside the concourses.
The construction of the much-anticipated International concourse at Hobby Airport has yielded new identifying artworks for Houston. As the administrator of the City of Houston’s Civic Art Program, Houston Arts Alliance’s (HAA) Civic Art + Design (CA+D) department was brought on board to shepherd the commissioning of several distinct and impressive artworks for this new concourse.
With funding for the art provided by the city’s percent for arts program, CA+D worked with Southwest Airlines and Houston Airport System (HAS) to issue an open call for artist qualifications, followed by a selection panel. The panel narrowed down the applicants to six names: Christian Eckart, Chris Sauter, Krista Birnbaum, Henrique Oliveira, Kia Neill, and Libbie Masterson. It’s a group that represents local, as well as one international (Oliveira), artistic talent, an assortment of career experience, and gender diversity.
On behalf of the airport, HAS’s Public Art Program Curator Tommy Gregory has been involved throughout the commissioning process. Gregory reflects:
After the selection, we looked at each artist’s body of work and researched his or her exhibition and work history. The budgets were broken down based on the artists’ work histories and by taking into consideration the locations where each artwork was to be placed. Then we worked together locating a space for each work. After an intense design phase, the artists began the fabrication process. Each artist should be proud of his or herself, because we were under a very tight timeline from when the contract was executed to when the concourse was scheduled to open. I have not seen a group of artists work more diligently in the face of such a deadline.
In addition to the work of these six artists, duo RE:site was also contracted by HAS to construct a dynamic and artfully-rendered exhibition of Hobby Airport’s history. Entitled Time in Motion, this installation has been placed in the Federal Inspection Station baggage area of the international expansion.
As October 15 approached — the date of the first flight out of the international terminal — CA+D worked with six of the seven artists to finish installing their pieces.
The final work, a dichroic glass sculpture by Christian Eckart, is expected to be installed later this year. It is an exciting moment for Hobby as well as the City of Houston Art Collection, which will ultimately accession these works. Again, Gregory puts in words the potential significance of the terminal’s artwork, as well as the value of HAS's and HAA’s collaborative efforts to procure civic art for Houston:
Public art gives us a moment of visual relief from the much needed signage that directs our travels. It also brings gallery and museum quality work into locations in interesting ways. These new additions in the Hobby international concourse are strategically placed to reach the eyes of people who may not have the chance to take in the cultural institutions that we hold up so proudly here in Houston (essentially bringing cultural and visual art to the people). Simply, public art—especially this collection at Houston Hobby—shows the craftsmanship and ideas of some very creative and intellectual individuals. In a time when many things are mass produced, these are unique objects that will be definitive to Houston.
Equipped with the seven new paintings, sculptures, multi-media works, Hobby’s international concourse is sure to make a lasting and colorful impression on everyone from returning locals to first-time visitors to Houston.