KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City International Airport’s new terminal features the largest public art project in the city’s history, and most of it was created by Kansas City-area artists or people with personal ties to the region, according to KCI extension.
Kansas City’s “One Percent for Art” program enabled the new terminal to feature 28 pieces in the garage stairwells, entrance space, concourses, and retail and seating areas.
Since 1986, the program has earmarked 1% of public construction costs to incorporate artwork or other aesthetics into all of its projects, which focus on municipal buildings.
Of the more than 1,900 applications received, 28 artists, 19 of them with ties to the Kansas City area, were commissioned to create a series of artworks through various mediums, according to KCI. The pieces showcase the characteristics of the region, whether honoring KC’s jazz history or capturing the essence of the region’s landscape.
Artist Leo Villareal, who is based in New York and has installation art around the world, recognized the importance of fountains in Kansas City through his light sculpture “Fountain (KCI).”
Villareal said the sculpture, made up of thousands of white LED lights lining up 20-foot-tall elliptical rings, mimics the shape and feel of a fountain.
“Airports can be very chaotic, but I think this terminal represents something completely different,” said Villareal. “It’s absolutely beautiful and there’s so much natural light… a very thoughtful approach indeed. So, I’m really happy that sculpture can participate.”
Located in a central area of the new terminal, the “Fountain (KCI)” is visible once travelers enter the security area.
“I hope [the sculpture] it gives people a respite from the kind of chaos of an airport, and all the things people have to go through, and a time to create a sense of wonder and awe and contemplation,” said Villareal.
Villareal said he was impressed by the other artists’ pieces, which are split into two projects.
“Ornithology” by Willie Cole.
Artists with ties to the Kansas City area have created wall art and are located in the terminal’s two concourses, while other spaces inside and outside the terminal are reserved for works by artists from around the world .
Rachelle Gardner-Roe’s “Fly Over Country: The Wild Side” is a colorful piece of fabric located in Concourse B that depicts wildlife in Missouri and Kansas.
Gardner-Roe hand-dyed wool from her family farm in Adrian, Missouri to create a colorful watercolor-like background. He then used a sewing machine to “sketch” the regional wildlife, according to KCI.
“A little education about our regional wildlife, but also just a little joy and beauty and fun that I hope they take away from it,” Gardner-Roe said.
Some pieces guide travelers through the new terminal.
A suspended artwork of saxophones structured to portray birds, titled “Ornithology,” dangles above travelers’ heads at the entrance to Concourse B in honor of Kansas City jazz musician Charlie “Yardbird” Parker. Artist Willie Cole assembled the artwork in Kansas City’s historic 18th and Vine District, according to KCI.
“Separate and complex bodies, sophisticated interactions and unfathomable lives” by Santiago Cucullu.
Other works have been strategically placed in the seating areas.
One titled “Separate and Complex Bodies, Sophisticated Interactions, and Unfathomable Lives” is a panoramic collage of woodland spaces in the Kansas City area. The artist, Santiago Cucullu, showcases the woods in early spring.
KCI explains that the artwork is a reminder that being in the woods can inspire living in the moment.
In an effort to represent a diverse group of artists, 78 percent of Kansas City-area artists are women or people of color and 75 percent of the world’s artists are women or people of color, according to KCI.