Claiming Space for Beauty and Reflection

Take a calming stroll through new Baggage Claim Sculptural Walk on Arrivals Curb

By Alyson Walls

Published February 1, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


(Video by Beth Hollerich)

A big snake. A golden DNA helix. Colorful planes.

What will you see as you walk through the latest art installation outside Baggage Claim at Pittsburgh International Airport?

The fourth and final piece, “Flight,” made of painted aluminum by Carnegie Mellon University graduate students Michael Neumann and Shohei Katayama, has been installed outside Door #3 — marking completion of the first phase of an outdoor Baggage Claim Sculptural walk on the Arrivals Curb.

More than $9,000 in paint for the piece was donated by BASF, mixed and delivered to the artists by West Penn Laco on Ohio Street in Millvale. The primers, colors and UV clear coats are typically used on vehicles including Smart Cars, Nissans and Subarus, as well as sculptures at Disney World.

Brian Fox, spokesman for BASF, said the company was pleased to support the artists in this unique venture.

“Who hasn’t made a paper airplane and been fascinated by flight…this concept touches the hearts of children and adults,” Fox said. “It’s one sculpture we haven’t seen in any other airport in the world, and we are proud to have helped in a small way.”

The walk also features three other engaging (and Instagrammable!) sculptures that were installed beginning in fall 2018:

  • Fancy of Flight” made of wood by Linda VanGehuchten (Door #4)
  • Power Surge” made of powder-coated steel by D.W. Martin, a faculty member at Edinboro University (Door #5)
  • Three Rings” made of corten steel by Dee Briggs (Door #6)

Arts and Culture Manager Rachel Rearick said this type of open-air gallery provides multiple chances for art encounters as people arrive and depart the airport.

“The intent behind the project is to provide calming opportunities for traveling passengers and employees,” Rearick said. “Public art provides spaces for playfulness and reflection, and each of these artists has captured the essence and value of art in an airport environment in their own way.”

Along with enviable art programs, airports including Dallas Ft. Worth, Dallas Love Field, Philadelphia, Atlanta and San Francisco also have sculptural walks, gardens and a number of pieces located both inside and outside their terminals.

Rearick has toured many of the facilities to determine best practices for PIT including location and types of exhibits, lengths of display, compensation of artists and measuring passenger satisfaction.

For the Baggage Claim Walk, each artist was paid a stipend of $25,000 for their sculpture and agreed to loan it to PIT for up to five years. All work was selected via an open call, by panel members of the airport’s Art Advisory Committee reviewing the artists’ initial proposals.

The new sculptures speak to the forward trajectory of PIT’s Art in the Airport program, Rearick said. The program had its most successful year ever in 2018, with more than 30 new long-term and rotating installations, additional musical performances on a new Center Core stage and the airport’s first-ever artist in residence.

Art will continue to be central to the airport’s mission of improving the passenger experience.

The Terminal Modernization Program includes an arts and culture working group to help curate a robust art experience in the new terminal set to open in 2023. Rearick is currently drafting a new five-year arts plan to best connect the airport to the region it serves.

“We remain dedicated to showcasing a dynamic array of work produced by local, regional, national and international artists to improve the passenger experience,” Rearick said. “I feel lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing team and a rich artist community here in Pittsburgh.”


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