Travel Time: Here's Your Guide to Airport Art in Phoenix

Look for "Shaping the Sound" on level two of Terminal 4.
Look for "Shaping the Sound" on level two of Terminal 4. Phoenix Airport Museum
Traveling can be tough. But the little things, like finding art installations and exhibitions, can make it a lot more enjoyable.

Next time your travels take you to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, allow some extra time to explore its many art offerings – in terminals, Sky Train stations, and the rental car center.

The airport's art collection includes more than 900 works of contemporary art. Most exhibited works are located at Sky Harbor, though some are shown at Phoenix Deer Valley Airport and Phoenix Goodyear Airport. Portable pieces, site-specific installations, and architectural enhancements are included in the collection, which was purchased with donations and funds from the Phoenix Aviation Department administered by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.

The majority of the airport's exhibited works are displayed in prescreening areas, so you can enjoy them without passing through security. And much of the art at Sky Harbor is available for public viewing 24 hours a day.

Exhibitions at Sky Harbor often feature pieces by renowned Arizona artists who work in painting, sculpture, photography, and other media. Here’s a guide to help you find your way to the airport’s art.

click to enlarge Look for ceramics by Tiffany C. Bailey on level four of Terminal 3. - PHOENIX AIRPORT MUSEUM
Look for ceramics by Tiffany C. Bailey on level four of Terminal 3.
Phoenix Airport Museum

Sky Harbor Terminals

Terminal 2

Terminal 2 is home to The Phoenix, a 1962 mixed-media work by Paul Coze. Comprising three panels and made with 52 different materials, the 16-by-75-foot mural depicts early Arizona inhabitants and industries. This work is likely to be relocated in connection with future airport renovations.

Terminal 3

Look for “Weaving Through Time: Grand Canyon National Park – Celebrating 100 Years” on level one, near the ticketing area. The exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Grand Canyon's national park status while highlighting the fact that “people have lived in the canyon for thousands of years.”

An exhibition titled “Making Faces: Collage Portraits by Sebastiao Pereira” is also located in this part of the airport.

“The Story Continues: Pueblo Grande at 90” includes artifacts from the Pueblo Grande Museum, an archaeological site located near the airport. It’s located on the second level, on the west end of the terminal.

You’ll find “Intimate & Expansive: Ceramic Art by Tiffany C. Bailey” in the east arrivals area of level four. Bailey is a Tempe artist whose works, featuring iconic imagery from windmills to cows, are inspired by her Midwestern upbringing.

Works by Jeremy Thomas, an artist represented by Bentley Gallery in Phoenix, are also exhibited on level four. His colorful heat-forged steel sculptures are installed in a post-security portion of the terminal, a gallery located in the west section of the terminal, and near the Sky Train portal.

click to enlarge Look for Donald Lipski's work in Terminal 3. - PHOENIX AIRPORT MUSEUM
Look for Donald Lipski's work in Terminal 3.
Phoenix Airport Museum
Donald Lipski created a mixed-media piece called The Aviators, which pays homage to the prevalence of Arizona's sunshine, as well as its aviation history. The work includes an oil-on-canvas painting and aviator glasses with steel frames that measure almost 30 feet and weigh 2,000 pounds. It's located on the east end of level four.

Head outdoors to the west end of the terminal on level one to explore a sculpture garden that blends art with desert plants. Featured works include three sculptures relocated due to renovation, plus two new works — Living History of a Wall by Patricia Sannit and Trimeton by Gary Slater.

Two works created for Terminal 3 when it opened in 1979 have been relocated as part of airport renovations. Merrill Mahaffey's acrylic on canvas painting titled The Grand Canyon  The Ultimate Landscape is now installed at eye level on the east end of level four. Ken Toney's Stained Glass piece created with slab glass, epoxy, and silica aggregate has been relocated from a ceiling above interior escalators to an outdoor location at the north curb on level one.

click to enlarge Look for "Art on a Cellular Level" on level three of Terminal 4. - PHOENIX AIRPORT MUSEUM
Look for "Art on a Cellular Level" on level three of Terminal 4.
Phoenix Airport Museum
Terminal 4

Head to the second level, near the ticketing area, to see handmade guitars built by the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, located in the Grand Avenue arts and preservation district. The exhibit also includes the tools used to make the guitars.

Look for three exhibitions on the third level, where you’ll find one of two airport galleries. The gallery is showing “Art on a Cellular Level,” which includes works by seven Arizona artists inspired by biological processes and structures. Featured artists include Bill Dambrova and Monica Aissa Martinez.

An exhibition called “Memory and Mystery: Paintings by James G. Davis” is on view in eight display cases situated on the east and west ends of the terminal.

Head east of the food court to explore prints made by various artists, which are part of an exhibit called “From Press to Print: Xico Arte y Cultura.” Xico is an arts organization that specializes in Latinx and indigenous art.

Pro tip: Keep an eye out whenever you’re walking through the airport, since several works from the museum’s collection dot the walls.

click to enlarge See Daniel Mayer's Trace Elements at  Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. - LYNN TRIMBLE
See Daniel Mayer's Trace Elements at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Lynn Trimble

Sky Train Stations

The 44th Street Station has a ground-floor atrium, where you’ll find Blue Stratus, a 150-by-40-foot ceiling installation by Mario Madayag and Michael Parekowhai with Paul Deeb. It comprises steel and 6,610 aluminum reflector panels painted with six shades of blue, plus LED lights placed above to create “a slowly changing tableau of color.”

Inside this station, you’ll find two terrazzo floors. Daniel Martin Diaz’s Journey Through Nature is located on the pedestrian bridge, and Fausto Fernandez’s Tailplane Patterns is located on the station platform. Diaz used 10 colors to create a mandala, flowers, and vines within an aggregate that contains recycled glass, abalone shell, and native desert stones. Fernandez used 10 colors to create rhythmic geometric patterns that contain recycled crushed glass and mirror.

The East Economy Station has its own terrazzo masterpiece, Anne Coe’s Topo Magic, located on the station platform. Inspired by topographic maps she uses while hiking, Coe used 11 colors to “depict rivers, canyons, farm fields, and mountains in a whimsical landscape of wiggling shapes and contours.”

click to enlarge Checking out part of Janelle L. Stanley's Diné/Navajo Connection terrazzo floor designs. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Checking out part of Janelle L. Stanley's Diné/Navajo Connection terrazzo floor designs.
Lynn Trimble
The Terminal 3 Station has two terrazzo floors by Janelle L. Stanley — one located on the station platform, and another on the bridge connecting the station to the terminal. Haak’u/Acoma Connection was inspired by traditional Haak’u/Acoma pottery and a “treasured family turquoise brooch.” Diné/Navajo Connection references traditional basketry and weaving forms.

On level four, travelers will find a terrazzo floor installed earlier this year as part of Terminal 3 renovations. It's located past security on the south concourse bridge. The design depicts colorful abstract figures and plant shapes. Artist Teresa Villegas titled it Light, Love, Life.

The Terminal 4 Station is home to a pair of Daniel Mayer works. His Variable Order terrazzo floor is located on the station platform, and his Trace Elements stained-glass murals are located on the pedestrian bridge. Each of the two 115-by-nine-foot murals consists of 28 laminated glass panels with a leaf motif. His eight-color floor includes recycled crushed mirror, as well as blue and clear glass. Inspired by letterpress printing, Mayer embedded 1,000 metal letters with a lower-case Garamond italic typeface — and included the two handwritten phrases: “timeless is the open” and “limitless is the open.”

click to enlarge See Ed Carpenter's Crosstitch installation in the rental car center. - PHOENIX AIRPORT MUSEUM
See Ed Carpenter's Crosstitch installation in the rental car center.
Phoenix Airport Museum

Phoenix Rental Car Center

Look for Ed Carpenter’s Crosstitch, a dichroic glass installation that plays off natural light to create an ever-changing wash of colors and patterns, inside the rental car center. You'll also find large-scale ceramic works by Jun Kaneko, whose dango sculptures reference the shape of Japanese dumplings, at the center.

An exhibition called "Stories of a Local Community" also is located inside the center. It's designed to honor the people and history of neighborhoods affected by airport development. The exhibit includes artworks, poems, and stories from former residents of the Golden Gate and Barrios Unidos neighborhoods. It also features five panels and 13 acrylic paintings by Frank Ybarra.

For more information on the Airport Art Collection and information about submitting your work for consideration, visit the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport website.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble