When thinking about the airport, public art may not be top of mind. But at Pittsburgh International Airport and many of its peers across the country, art—particularly depictions of animals—is carefully planned to enhance the experience for travelers and visitors.
“At PIT we believe that the arts add value, meaning, and connectivity to our lives, and are an essential part of public spaces,” Pittsburgh International Airport Arts & Culture manager Keny Marshall said. “As an airport with millions of travelers, we are uniquely able to use our arts and culture program to reflect and celebrate our region.”
It’s no surprise that art has been on the rise inside airports. Artwork has been shown to be a gateway to local culture and helps combat some of the stress travelers may face.
For almost 20 years, a massive Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton has greeted travelers in PIT’s airside terminal, near the base of the escalators that lead to and from the train.
“I think one aspect that makes our T-rex so striking and popular is the scale and location of the display. People love to walk off the trains at PIT and be surprised by this prehistoric giant,” Marshall said. “People get really energized by changes in scale and enjoy discovering a sense of wonder in a public space that is typically associated with waiting and travel.”
Fortunately, PIT is not the only airport that features large-scale animal art.
Earlier this year Tampa International Airport welcomed a 21-foot flamingo sculpture in the center of its Main Terminal.
Created by Matthew Mazzotta, “Home” is meant to capture the feeling of belonging and nostalgia that is created by arriving back at the place where you feel at home.
The flamingo has just recently been traced to have some roots in Florida, which was one of the many reasons why this sculpture is depicted as a unique bird.
The large scale is meant to create a sense of awe and wonder, according to Mazzotta. The artwork extends to the ceiling, which is designed to create the impression that the viewer is underwater. The metal panels and lighting creates a water-like feature on the ceiling of the artwork.
Whether you know this statue through travel or urban myth, Denver International Airport’s “Mustang” has become one of its most recognized symbols.
“Our airport is internationally recognized for our extensive public art collection, and the most popular piece by far is Mustang,” said airport Public Information Officer Stephanie Figueroa. “We think what makes him so special is that anyone driving on Peña Boulevard and even some people landing or taking off on our runways can see Mustang.”
The Mustang stands 32 feet tall and weighs around 9,000 pounds, with LED glowing red eyes. The eyes pay tribute to the artist’s father, who owned a neon sign shop.
The Denver airport likes to recognize Mustang as their “fierce, blue protector of travelers, guarding the airport.”
It’s quite common to see migrating birds traveling in a flock. Across the state in Philadelphia, we see evidence of that in the airport artwork.
Ralph Helmick created “Impulse” as a series of six sculptures that replicates a sequence of flight patterns within Terminal A of Philadelphia International Airport.
The sequence begins with birds waiting to take off and then progressing into flying throughout the terminal. Toward the end of the artwork, the birds begin to flock, eventually arranging themselves into a goose, which in turn transforms into a classic DC-3 aircraft.
More than 6,750 pewter components make up this soaring artwork, and about 50 different avian species are represented within it.
Sacramento International Airport’s entry into our artistic menagerie is a 56-foot-long, 10,000-pound aluminum rabbit created by Lawrence Argent.
“(The) artist, Lawrence Argent, chose to make a sculpture of a rabbit to appear as though it was leaping from the outside of the airport and because it is instantly recognizable but allows airport users to come up with their own story or answer to the question, ‘Why a red rabbit?’” said airport public information officer Andrea Sandoval.