Visitors see that at the airport, you’ve gotta have art!

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Every day of the year, some 48,000 people pass through San Diego International Airport (SDIA). Most of them, busy with plans and luggage, never really notice the art displays gracing the walls, floors and halls. The lucky ones stop, look, and admire. Sometimes they even take time to contact the artists. Since 1998, SDIA has been part of a national Airport Art Program, which fosters relationships with local artists and cultural organizations and brightens the airport experience for meeters, greeters, and travelers inside and outside security checkpoints.

The program’s newest installation, “Sky’s the Limit,” was created by 19 cartoonists from four different states. Matt Lorentz

On June 12-14, SDIA hosted the American Association of Airport Executives’ Ninth Annual Arts in the Airport Workshop, which included a two-hour art tour led by art program manager Constance Y. White. A former public art coordinator from Dallas, she has been here, infusing the program with her energy and imagination, since 2006.

“She’s a rock star! She’s full of personality, and she’s sensitive to the kind of people artists are,” said local artist Jeffrey Steorts, whose wall of extraordinary medieval/mechanical/mystical pieces, “Within the Heart of Time and Space,” is now on exhibit in Terminal 2.

Airport art program manager Constance Y. White shows off Christie Beniston’s giant light box “Time Interwoven” on a recent art tour for airport executives from around the country. Photos Lonnie Hewitt

White, who is constantly scouting for new artists, discovered Steorts at Art Walk three years ago. His work is in a post-security area, so you’d have to fly in or out of San Diego to see it. But there’s time: Most temporary exhibits are displayed for six months.

And there are many delights in pre-security places. Like Christie Beniston’s “Time Interwoven,” a giant light box in the Commuter Terminal whose vertical color strips represent the world’s 24 time zones, with light traveling continuously on the hour from one zone to the next. This permanent piece, commissioned by the Airport Authority, was installed in 2009.

The stainless steel sculpture “Guillermo,” outside Terminal 1, is part of the airport’s “Legacy Collection.”

Another notable work, outside Terminal 1, is “Guillermo,” a large-scale stainless steel sculpture by Steve Bartlett. Sometimes called “Steely Stan,” it’s part of the “legacy collection,” commissioned in 1997, when the Port of San Diego still managed the airport and the art.

The most recent commission, also outdoors, is a comic strip mural installed a month ago along Terminal 2’s pedestrian bridge. Featuring Charles Schulz’s beagle aviator, Snoopy, “Sky’s the Limit!” is a six-panel piece created by 19 cartoonists and illustrators, a tribute to aviation and comic art.

“Paper Play,” a history of fashion created by students at Santa Fe Christian School, is on display in Terminal 2.

Visible from nearly all parts of Terminal 2, indoors and out, is Joan Irving’s “Wind Dance,” a band of etched and painted glass 520 feet long and 2-½ feet high that spans a good part of the terminal entrance. Just look up: You can’t miss it. Though the piece was a major challenge for the artist, she’s now at work on a 1,200-foot project for the lobby of New York’s Empire State Building.

Another temporary exhibit in Terminal 2 is “Paper Play,” a decade-by-decade history of fashion that’s the work of seven middle-school girls at Santa Fe Christian Schools in Solana Beach.

And speaking of fashion, there are several cases that show the development of the ”Beauty’s Privilege” collaboration between designer Gordana Gehlhausen and artist Tim Cantor, who were part of “Art Meets Fashion,” a grand runway event staged at the baggage claim area in May (see

These are only the tip of the art-berg. There are eight different temporary exhibition areas, and dozens of permanent installations on display.

Come for the art, and stay for a performance: There’s music twice a month, every second and fourth Friday evening, with special events at other times during the year.

Today’s airport is not just a place to fly into and out of. You gotta have art!

If you go

• For a list of permanent and temporary exhibits, see Public Art/While You’re Here, at

• Upcoming events: Symphonic String Trio, June 24; Independence Day Celebration with Lighthouse (Bluegrass Americana), June 30; Jaime Valle & Equinox (Latin Jazz), July 8.

• For complete schedule, see Performing Arts:

Related posts:

  1. Craftsman furniture fans will flock to new Stickley exhibition at San Diego Museum of Art
  2. Artist explores lynchings in exhibit at UCSD gallery
  3. Market Street Group plans its silver anniversary art exhibition
  4. Two new photo exhibits open Saturday at the MOPA in Balboa Park
  5. La Jollan Vicki Reed to head San Diego arts commission

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Posted by Staff on Jun 28, 2011. Filed under A & E, Art Galleries & Institutions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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