Few people relish time spent in airports, thanks to all the noise, crowds, and waiting in line. But Phoenix's airport displays artwork that makes spending time there a whole lot more pleasant — if you know where to look.
Next time your travels take you to Sky Harbor International Airport, allow some extra time to explore the items exhibited in terminals, Sky Train stations, and the rental car center.
The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Public Art Collection includes more than 900 works of contemporary art. Most are exhibited at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, although some are exhibited at Phoenix Deer Valley Airport and Phoenix Goodyear Airport. Those not on view are kept in storage.
The collection includes portable pieces, site-specific installations, and architectural enhancements. Most exhibited works are located in pre-screening areas, so you can enjoy them without passing through security. The majority of works located at Sky Harbor International Airport are available for public viewing 24 hours a day. The Airport Art Collection was purchased with Phoenix Aviation Department percent-for-art funds administered by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.
Exhibitions at Sky Harbor International Airport often feature work by some of Arizona’s most renowned and loved artists who work in painting, sculpture, photography, and several additional media. Here’s a guide to help you find your way to the airport’s many art offerings.
Sky Harbor Terminals
Terminal 2 is home to The Phoenix, a 1962 mixed-media work by Paul Coze. Comprising three panels, the 16-by-75-foot mural made with 52 different materials depicts early Arizona inhabitants and industries. Check out the terminal entryway and three pre-screening display cases, where you’ll find Diné (Navajo) weavings featured in the “Interwoven: Influences on a Living Art Form” exhibition.
Terminal 3 art is undergoing some changes due to remodeling. Look for “Desert in the Details” in a new gallery space and “Romancing the Cape” in a new display case, likely to open in early December. “Desert in the Details” features works exploring desert flora by Mary Shindell, Thomas Kerrigan, Aaron Rothman, and Alexandra Bowers. “Romancing the Cape” includes eight two-sided capes created by Prescott fiber artist Eleanor Bostwick, whose techniques include weaving, appliqué, embroidery, and image transfer.
Terminal 4 is where you’ll find the Phoenix Airport Museum Gallery, which is showing “Find Your Park in Arizona: Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service,” an exhibition featuring ancient and historic objects including pottery, baskets, a petrified tree slab, and a boat used to traverse the Grand Canyon in 1963. It continues through January 29, 2017. An exhibition featuring the art of the motorcycle will open in the gallery during February 2017. Take note, night owls — this gallery (located on Level 3) is only open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
While you’re on Level 3, look for two additional exhibitions. “Relief in the Desert: Fine Art Prints from Santo Press” includes Santos Press collaborations with 26 regional and national artists, who bring vastly different artistic styles to printmaking. Featured artists include El Mac, Rachel Bess, Brent Bond, Carolyn Lavender, and Frank Gonzales. It continues through February 26, 2017. “Arizona Weather — From Duststorms to Snowstorms" continues through March 19, 2017, and includes weather-inspired works by 29 artists from 18 Arizona cities.
Recently donated works of contemporary ceramics from the Joan Lincoln and Billie Jo Harned collections will be shown in Level 2 display cases.
The International Walkway is the site of “Structure of Nature,” an exhibition of paintings, photographs, and prints by 20 artists exploring real or imagined desert colors, patterns, and textures. Featured artists include Ed Mell, Anne Coe, Jeremy Briddell, and Clare Verstegen.
Sky Train Stations
The 44th Street Station has a ground-floor atrium, where you’ll find Blue Stratus, a 150-foot by 40-foot installation by Mario Madayag and Michael Parekowhai with Paul Deeb. It’s composed of steel and 6,610 aluminum reflector panels painted with six types 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 aggregate containing recycled glass, abalone shell, and native desert stones. Fernandez used 10 colors to create rhythmic geometric patterns within aggregate containing 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.”
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. Her Haak’u/Acoma Connection was inspired by traditional Haak’u/Acoma pottery and a “treasured family turquoise brooch.” Her Diné/Navajo Connection references traditional basketry and weaving forms.
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 two 115-foot by 9-foot murals consists of 28 laminated glass panels with a leaf motif. His eight-color floor includes recycled crushed mirror, plus 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.”
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Phoenix Rental Car Center
The rental car center features 82 pieces, which means you’ll have to arm wrestle your travel-mate to decide who gets to dig all the artwork and who has to brave the rental car line. Most impressive is Ed Carpenter’s Crosstitch, a dichroic glass installation that plays off natural light to create an ever-changing wash of colors and patterns. Also look for five large scale ceramic works by Jun Kaneko. His Dangos reference the shape of Japanese dumplings.
Four hallways off the center’s lobby contain works by several artists. Most depict natural subjects: creek, wildflowers, trees, wash, leaves, bird, canyon, and more. About half these works are linoleum-cut prints by Andy Chuka. Other media include tin collage, oil on paper, woodcut print, digital photographic print, monoprint intaglio collage, watercolor, oil on board, and pictorial weaving.
For more information on the Airport Art Collection and information about submitting your work for consideration, visit skyharbor.com/museum.
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version, which first appeared in November 2015.