Submit Your Ideas for the New Airport’s Artwork

Artists want to know what luggage would think, what Pittsburgh really sounds like

By Jonathan Potts

Published March 18, 2024

Read Time: 3 mins


The new Pittsburgh International Airport is being built for Pittsburgh and by Pittsburgh.

That’s also true of the artwork that passengers will experience in the new terminal, expected to open in 2025.

In fact, two of the artists commissioned by the Allegheny County Airport Authority are seeking input from the public and PIT passengers that will be incorporated into new art at the terminal.

Artist John Peña

John Peña’sWhat Does Luggage Think About” is a series of luggage sculptures to be installed on top of four baggage claim carousels in the new terminal. Each sculpture includes a thought bubble, displaying messages on an analog split-flap display reminiscent of departure boards that once adorned train stations.

Peña is inviting PIT passengers to share ideas about what their luggage would think about if it could think. These ideas will inform Peña’s approach to the project, and many of them will end up in the final display. (The messages will not be static, thanks to those old-school split-flap displays. Your suitcase, in other words, can change its mind!)

Passengers will be able to submit ideas via a QR code on banners and table tents displayed in PIT’s current baggage claim in the landside terminal as well as through postcards at the information desk. The artist also will be onsite at a table in baggage claim during a series of visits to PIT: April 12, 17, 19, 24 and 26, from 2 to 6 p.m. In the meantime, you can submit ideas here.

“Traditionally we tend to think of sculpture as a static thing, especially in an airport. I like the idea that you’d be waiting for your luggage, which is already a stressful time, and that there is something up there that is funny or cheeky that would distract you from that,” said Peña, a Washington state native who now lives in Pittsburgh.

Artist Susan Narduli

Susan Narduli is creating Immersion: a Pittsburgh Sound Portrait, an audio installation that passengers will hear as they move up and down the escalators between the three levels of the new terminal. Narduli is asking the public to submit audio files of distinctly Pittsburgh sounds or share ideas for the sounds they most associate with western Pennsylvania that Narduli will capture.

What sound comes to mind for you? Is it the roar of the crowd cheering on the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium, or the splash of water in the fountain at Point State Park? Such sounds will play from directional speakers that will be heard only on the escalators, creating a “sound tunnel” that will not interfere with or interrupt other airport activities.

The installation will be powered by software that will generate additional sounds based on real-time data such as local and regional weather and airport traffic. An augmented reality mobile app will allow passengers to take the sounds of Pittsburgh with them wherever they go.

Sounds, or suggestions for sounds, can be submitted at Narduli’s web site.

Narduli is from Los Angeles, but her husband grew up in Indiana, Pa., and the couple have visited Pittsburgh numerous times with family. She drew inspiration from the new airport’s “NaTeCo” design philosophy – reflecting the nature, technology and community that define the Pittsburgh region.

“We want this piece to be welcoming and accessible. We want it to represent the city but also represent the overall aesthetics of this new terminal,” said Narduli.

Peña and Narduli are among 10 artists commissioned to date to create art installations that will grace the new terminal and renovated portions of the existing airside terminal – including on the new terminal front bridge and parking garage. The new works expand upon an already robust public art program at PIT.

“Public art contributes to stress reduction, creates a positive airport perception, and boosts employee morale,” said Keny Marshall, arts and culture manager at PIT. “Diverse installations add cultural richness and make the airport a distinctive and welcoming space that enhances the overall journey for travelers.”

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