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New depARTures: San Diego Airport’s Terminal 2 debuts public-art collection

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Jim Campbell’s ‘The Journey’ is the airport’s largest artwork, a 700-foot-long light ribbon of 38,000 LED pendants emitting images of swimmers. Photos by Maurice Hewitt
Jim Campbell’s ‘The Journey’ is the airport’s largest artwork, a 700-foot-long light ribbon of 38,000 LED pendants emitting images of swimmers. Photos by Maurice Hewitt

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

Eight years ago, the Airport Authority Board adopted an Airport Art Master Plan that included a new collection of site-specific artwork at San Diego International Airport. That vision of an artful gateway to the region guided their major expansion project. Completed last August, “Green Build” Terminal 2, won a 2013 Orchid from the San Diego Architectural Foundation for Interior Architecture and Public Art.
Stuart Keeler and his two-story aluminum tubing and Swarowski crystal ‘Cloud’.
Stuart Keeler and his two-story aluminum tubing and Swarowski crystal ‘Cloud’.

The jury appreciated the airport’s extensive use of glass, maximizing natural light and providing stunning views, and was impressed by the breadth and brilliance of the art installations, hailing the project as “the beginning of a new era of fresh thinking about public art.”

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Flushed with success, the Airport Authority scheduled an Aesthetics and Authenticity Symposium, inviting speakers from around the country to discuss the role that art, design and culture could play in promoting a region’s prosperity and quality of life. The date was set for a mid-October weekend; the place selected was the Southwest Fisheries Science Center on La Jolla Shores Drive, whose award-winning blend of form, function and sustainability made it a perfect choice.

Po Sun Wang and his Relativator, inspired by Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.
Po Sun Wang and his Relativator, inspired by Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.

Then came last fall’s government shutdown; the Fisheries Center, a federal building, was closed, and the symposium cancelled.

But this month, Aesthetics and Authenticity came together for about 80 registrants, no longer in La Jolla, but at the New Central Library downtown. It kicked off the evening of March 7, with a magical mystery tour of the new airport art.

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Welcoming the tour-goers was the symposium’s organizer, Airport Art Program Manager Constance White. An artist and jewelry designer herself, she has been the power behind the airport’s expanding art since 2006. She led one of the two tour groups, which included brief talks by the main artists, and a close look at the eight great new pieces.

At the post-tour reception, she was exultant. “We really planned in a strategic way to implement this program, and to see it come together after eight years is enormously gratifying,” White said. “It wasn’t all peaches and strawberries, but there was so much integrity and creativity from the artists. I’m ready to do it again!”

Leslie Nemour with one of her ‘women in film’ on display at the West End Gallery.
Leslie Nemour with one of her ‘women in film’ on display at the West End Gallery.

Viewing the art at Terminal 2:

From outside the building, Franka Riehnelt’s and Claudia Reisenberger’s “Sublimare” – featuring patterns of giant kelp leaves – represent San Diego’s undersea kelp forests on the underside of the two-level concrete roadway and flanking the check-in pavilions. Roy McMakin’s bronze windows are suspended from the glass walls of the two pedestrian bridges. The rest of the artworks are on the far side of the security checkpoint and can be viewed only by in-transit passengers on American Airlines, US Air, United, Delta or Jet Blue. Allow time for viewing on your next trip!