New Terminal Features $6 Million Art Collection

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Sacramento International Airport's new central Terminal B was not only the largest construction project in Sacramento County's history, it also houses the county's largest public art project to date.

The terminal's $6 million collection is "monumental in scale," says Shelly Willis, Art in Public Places director for the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission.

Under county ordinance, 2% of hard construction costs of public projects must be dedicated to art. That would have amounted to about $20 million in art for Terminal B, which some considered unreasonable. Instead, the county and airport agreed on an $8 million program. In addition to the $6 million collection of initial artwork, $2 million established an endowment to maintain and support the airport arts program.

"It was a very collaborative way to deal with the issues, financial concerns and operating burden it might otherwise impose," says airport director G. Hardy Acree.

"This project is very important to the city and to the region," Willis emphasizes. "(Art) changes people's perceptions of a place, which can make people want to stay longer, visit more often and become interested in a place they were not interested in before.

"Airports are gateways into the community," she continues. "You need to make a good first impression, and this public art project makes a great first impression."

The primary piece in the new terminal is a giant 56-foot long, 15-foot high red rabbit, which appears to have jumped through the glass from the south side of the terminal and is diving into a suitcase located on the floor of baggage claim. The aluminum sculpture, titled "Leap," by Lawrence Argent, is suspended from the ceiling by cables.

An untitled piece by Ned Kahn along the automated people mover guideway refers more to the aviation aspect of the airport. It includes an array of small steel wind vanes that respond to the air turbulence of the passing trains.

"Each of the artworks was designed to relate to the scale of the building, the architecture and the building's function," says Willis, of the 12-piece collection. "The majority of works reflect local and regional motifs and are linked thematically by the idea of bringing the outdoors in, a theme that is further reflected by the ticket hall's dramatic glass-curtain walls open on three sides."

Lynn Criswell's terrazzo and steel piece, for instance, includes 18 emerald green bird cages suspended over 22 Northern California birds inset into the floor. "Migration," by Marcia Stuemer, is a 64-foot-long ceiling inset composed of 32 translucent acrylic backlit panels depicting a flock of cranes in flight.

An oil-on-canvas composition by Gregory Kondos conveys the Yuba River running through the rolling hills of California's Gold Rush landscape; and Donald Lipsk's suspended mixed media sculpture titled "Acorn Steam," features a Valley Oak tree.

Two pieces are interactive, with audible features. "Your Words Are Music to My Ears," by Living Lenses (Louise Bertelsen and Po Shu Wang) is an interactive sound sculpture shaped like an 8-foot-tall polished stainless-steel French horn. Camille Utterback and Michelle Higa's video installation titled "Active Ecosystem" addresses the rich agricultural activity and natural beauty of the Sacramento area.

A diverse panel of 50 members selected the artists and approved their works. Panelists included curators, art historians and critics, community members, the airport's principal architect, county and airport personnel, and members of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. The airport received more than 500 submissions; nine of the 12 artists selected were from Northern California.


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