By Benjamin Fang
Five Queens-based artists will showcase their interactive work at LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal through next winter.
As part of the “QCA ArtPort” program, LaGuardia Airport is teaming up with the Queens Council on the Arts to host the five artists, who will each have a three-month residency. They will also hold studio hours at the terminal to invite travelers to engage with their work.
LaGuardia Airport general manager Lysa Scully said she got the idea from attending a local community board meeting. She hopes the art can empower, educate and even inspire travelers.
“It’s important for me that when people land someplace, they feel like they’re in the right place and they’re in a place that welcomes and inspires them,” said Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, executive director of QCA. “That’s best done through arts.”
She said she would love to see more art in other unconventional spaces, including John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“If we can all be a little creative in thinking of how to showcase art and getting them space to work, everybody wins,” she said.
Ninety applicants applied for the program, and only five artists, including a duo, were selected.
From April to June 2018, Ridgewood-based writers Gideon Jacobs and Lexie Smith will host a pop-up project called “Landing Pages,” where passengers give the writers their flight number and either a phone number or email address.
While the passenger is on the flight, the two will be tasked with coming up with a story, poem or other written passage. They will then send it to the passenger before his or her flight lands.
“We usually get it to them the minute before they turn their phones back on,” Jacobs said. “So when they turn their phone back on in the plane, or get off Airplane Mode, there’s a landing page.”
The Ridgewood artist said they wanted a site-specific project that couldn’t be done anywhere. They came up with “Landing Pages” because it’s something that could only be done in an airport setting.
Jacobs said he sees the story or poem as a “souvenir” for travelers who leave New York City. He hopes those who participate will be surprised by their story.
“Traveling isn’t always fun, so I hope this can be a bit of an oasis, or a nice, pleasant experience, for people who are not expecting to have a pleasant day,” he said.
From July to September 2018, multimedia sound artist Sandra Lopez-Monsalve from East Elmhurst will work on three projects. The first will be a collection of short interviews, asking travelers just one question on what it means to travel.
The second project will be a compiled sound-piece made of noises from nature. The last part will be radio-style stories about LaGuardia Airport, focusing on its history, the mural at the Marine Air Terminal and the “silent voices” of the airport.
In the following three months to close out 2018, Astoria-based visual artist Sherwin Banfield will create a series of drawings and portraits of the airport, its employees and travelers. The artwork will be his interpretation of what makes the terminal “a living, moving, active energy space,” he said.
When he finishes the drawings, Banfield will incorporate all of them into a “relief sculpture,” using elements from all of his different portraits.
“The drawing enables me to interact in a way with the space and the folks who are in this space,” he said. “Almost like reporting on what I experience and making that into one substantial-size collage of the drawings.”
The Astoria resident said he hopes passengers and employees will see the “inner workings” of an artist at work, which includes drawing and editing.
“Seeing that process unfold, maybe it will be an inspiration for their own lives,” Banfield said, “or to experience this space in a different way.”
Sunnyside-based artist Brian Soliwoda will round out the residency program from January to March 2019. His project begins with building a biodegradable sculpture of the Clipper sailing ship, paying homage to the first airships that first used to fly out of the terminal.
“There were no runways at the time,” he said. “It was all taking off at the water.”
Soliwoda said his work typically finds the intersections among the community, the environment and art. In this project, he plans to connect the history of plants as they relate to transportation, he said.
One example he mentioned was tea leaves. Soliwoda said the tea trade was so big centuries ago that it spawned the birth of faster-moving ships, including the Clipper ship he will build.
Soliwoda will use materials inspired by the history of diversity of New York City, including tea, tulip seeds, rice and potatoes, and sow them into the sails of the ship. When his residency ends in April, near the beginning of spring, he will take the sails out, put them on the ground and grow a garden “of our collective histories.”
He hopes that travelers passing through the terminal will find respite in all of the artwork throughout the program.
“Traveling can be stressful for a lot of people. One of the things I’ve always loved about this terminal is that it’s such a decompression space,” he said. “I really think it’s one of the most calming spaces you can possibly hope for when traveling.”
He said he’s especially excited by LaGuardia Airport incorporating art while it’s going through a major renovation.
“As an artist, I can tell you I believe arts fuel innovation because creative minds make for great ideas,” Soliwoda said. “Artists can think very differently. I’m excited to give people that when they are needing it most.”