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Landmark public art collection premieres in Sacramento's new Terminal B
The Terminal is the largest construction project in the history of Sacramento County.

SACRAMENTO, CA.- Twelve major public artworks are premiering in Sacramento with the opening of the new Terminal B at the Sacramento International Airport. The first commercial flight embarked from the new Terminal on October 6th. Airport passengers from everywhere are now able to view the collection, and the general public is invited to attend guided tours that will run through the end of 2011.

The Terminal is the largest construction project in the history of Sacramento County, and the artworks there represent the largest public art project in the history of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission. These public artworks, shepherded by the Commission’s Art in Public Places program, are both an integral component and featured attraction of the new Terminal.

Each of the 12 artworks activates and responds to the larger environment of the Terminal—conceptually and architecturally. They range in scale, form and materials from a 56-foot sculpture of a red rabbit suspended in the building’s atrium to a multi-story interactive video installation to finely-crafted mosaic floors. The artworks also serve a function: ten of them line the terminal’s central spine, guiding passengers through the facility, and one piece points passengers to baggage claim.

“The artworks are seamlessly integrated into the new Terminal, resulting in architecture that is strengthened by art and art that is more powerful because of a well-designed building,” says Art in Public Places Director Shelly Willis.

Three of the twelve artists—Suzanne Adan, Gregory Kondos and Joan Moment—are from Sacramento and nine total from the Northern California region. All are nationally recognized and award-winning.

Bringing the outside world inside the Airport was an overall architectural design concept, and each artist was invited to express that concept in his or her own way. A flock of Central Valley sandhill cranes, created by Marcia Stuermer, lifts off in flight on a backlit ceiling in international arrivals. Donald Lipski’s grand chandelier, in the form of Valley Oak tree branches and covered with 8,000 Austrian crystals, creates a night canopy over the primary entrance to the concourse. A mosaic floor of free-floating birds and tules by artist Suzanne Adan reflects the local marshes that are indigenous to the region.

Mac Arthur “genius award” fellow Camille Utterback designed a digital window into the natural world around the Airport by using 14 giant, flat-screen monitors, installed on a three-story glass elevator. In response to the elevator’s movement, the screens play animations of falling leaves and a river. Lynn Criswell’s sculptural installation includes 21 empty, emerald-green birdcages suspended above a bright yellow terrazzo floor covered with images—in black and stainless steel—of locally indigenous birds.

Sacramento artist Joan Moment’s vibrant blue mosaic floor, titled A Fragment of the Universe, evokes the night sky, outer space, the surface of water and the playful interaction of crop circles and planetary forms. Ned Kahn’s 420 steel flags move with the passing Airport’s passenger trains, making the wind visible.

Gregory Kondos’ oil-on-canvas, the only painting in the collection, depicts the American River’s journey through the landscape. UCLA professor Christian Moeller reinterprets natural elements by depicting them with contemporary digital tools: his vast, 150-foot-long wall hanging created with over 4,000 strips of individually cut wood pays homage to the largely invisible airport operation worker.

Several artists focused on works that invited passersby to become co-creators or inhabitants. Po Shu Wang and Louise Bertelsen created a giant, polished, stainless steel sculpture in the form of a French horn, inviting passersby to create music by typing emails translated to sound. Mildred Howard chose to remind travelers of home with a 17-foot hand-blown glass house of reflecting and refracting light that includes fragments of letters written during the California Gold Rush.

Finally, Lawrence Argent’s monumental red rabbit looks as if it has leapt from the green space on the outside of the Terminal to dive headlong into a granite suitcase located in baggage claim. Passersby might see the 56 foot-long aluminum and steel rabbit as leaping towards unknown adventure, or running away from something. Children might imagine playtime and toys, and adults, images of cleverness, cowardice, good luck, or fertility. Regardless of interpretation, “Leap” resists effacement and indifference--a reaction in harmony with Argent’s intent.

Eight of the installations--all on the landside of the Terminal--can be seen by the public without having to go through security checkpoint. The remaining four on the airside of the Terminal requires the purchasing of a ticket.

“Airports are the gateways to our region, and we’re proud that these artworks will play a role in shaping the perception of Sacramento natives and visitors. Public art can transform the identity of a place and is also an economic strategy for Sacramento,” said Rhyena Halpern, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission’s Executive Director.

Out of the funds allocated for art at the Airport, 15 percent went to artist fees. The other 85 percent went to their contractors, subcontractors, and electrical and structural engineers. The production of the artworks employed more than 150 people—most of them from in and around Sacramento.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission will be hosting ongoing, guided public art tours of the whole collection weekly throughout 2011.

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