SALT LAKE CITY — When the new Salt Lake City International Airport opens for flights in 17 months, the city wants everyone to remember their experience for the right reasons. As part of that experience, the city wants people to enjoy art in the airport that reflects the beauty and character of the state.
With a major art installation project deadline two weeks away, the city hopes local artists will help create and refine that look inside the airport.
“We want them to remember that they were in the Salt Lake City airport, and with the art installations that we have planned, they will definitely remember this airport,” airport spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said.
When the first passengers enter the new airport in September 2020, they’ll gaze upon several unique works of art as they walk through the terminal. Public art has become a priority in Salt Lake City in recent years.
“The arts and culture are really the soul of the community,” said Kristian Anderson, the mayor’s senior policy adviser for arts and culture. “That reflects back who we are.”
A cornerstone of that concept will be the SLC Art Wall, to be displayed above the future Transportation Security Administration checkpoint where 25 million passengers will shuffle by each year.
“This is a high visibility project,” said Kat Nix, public art program manager for the Salt Lake City Arts Council. “It develops an identity. So when Salt Lake City residents go through the airport, they’ll have a unique connection to the artwork that’s here and help them have pride and ownership.”
It is quite a unique and large space the artist has to work with: it’s 30 feet wide and 11 feet high. Because of its location right next to the TSA checkpoint, it needs to be touchable, tough and low maintenance, too.
“It’s a high-touch area,” explained Nix. “So it’s got to be virtually indestructible.”
Salt Lake City is putting out a call for artists nationwide, but the mayor’s office hopes the local creative community will apply.
“We have such a creative community and the mayor is really excited to highlight that,” Anderson said.
The application deadline is Wednesday, April 17. Original inspiration for the airport art came from surveys of passengers.
“People wanted to see the beauty of Salt Lake and Utah brought inside,” said Volmer.
That should give travelers something of value to view while they’re traveling through the airport.
“You don’t just want a boring building, and it’s not just the beams and the girders, it’s back to that heart and soul,” said Anderson. “Art is the ultimate mirror that we really hold up to ourselves and say, 'Do we like what we see?'”
Art can also help relieve some of the tension of airline travel.
“It’s a stressful time,” he said. “Art can calm people, soothe people, and provide an environment where it slows your heart rate down, and lets you take a pause when you’re running from gate A to gate B.”
The money budgeted for the artist on this project is $235,000. Total cost for the airport construction: $3.6 billion. That will be funded by travelers fees, not taxpayer dollars.