Recently formed art board planning Charleston International’s new look

By Liz Segrist
Published June 23, 2014

Art will play a big role in transforming the interior of Charleston International Airport, according to a new art committee.

The art board, a committee of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, met for the first time recently to decide what type of art should go in the airport as part of the nearly $200 million Terminal Redevelopment & Improvement Program.

Art can help create a memorable experience for passengers, according to Jenny Sanford, a Charleston County Aviation Authority board member and art committee chairwoman.

Construction crews work on the Charleston International Airport’s entrance and exterior as part of its renovation overhaul. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
Construction crews work on the Charleston International Airport’s entrance and exterior as part of its renovation overhaul. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

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“Think of it as a welcoming gateway in and out. We want our visitors to like the feel and want to come back,” said Sanford, who said at a recent board meeting that the authority needs to budget for art and furniture.

The four-person art committee wants the displays to welcome tourists and businesses executives to the Lowcountry.

The board also plans to create policies for ways to handle art submissions, the legalities of being an art curator and what to do with art the airport currently owns, some of which will be put back on display once the renovations are complete.

Angela Mack, executive director of the Gibbes Museum and an art committee member, said the board needs to create a collections policy that defines what pieces the airport wants, how artists can apply to showcase their art, how the art will be cared for and how it will be disposed of once it comes down.

For example, Mack said the airport needs to define whether the art work will be returned to the artist, to avoid its becoming an art storage site.

Mack proposed creating a collections committee to handle art acquisitions at the airport, since donations can be overwhelming.

Sanford, the former first lady of South Carolina, said the governor’s mansion had an art mission statement that required the house’s art to be about South Carolina and made by a resident, which helped limit incoming donations.

If terms are explained upfront, conversations between the airport curators and artists will be easier, board members agreed.

Art challenges

Placing art in an airport comes with complications. The pieces are not in a protected museum environment; rather, they are in a bustling airport that serves thousands of hurried passengers each week — nearly 3 million annually. And the airport’s new design will feature glass walls throughout its terminals, which let in light that can affect artwork. Mack said a painting will be damaged within two years without proper lighting.

The art committee has to decide on the types of lighting to use, as well as the placement of art to ensure paths are clear for security cameras and passenger walkways.

Sanford said some spaces in the airport will lends themselves to rotating pieces, and others will work well for permanent artwork, which will need to be incorporated into the design and construction process and the budget.

Some art, like sweetgrass baskets or a replica of the USS Yorktown, will be placed in glass boxes. A live Palmetto tree might be planted in the atrium. Sanford also proposed adding a wall in a hallway of Concourse B for a large piece of artwork or a series of photographs of Charleston.

Leonard Long, former executive vice president of Kiawah Partners, who also sits on the art board, promoted the use of professional photography as a way to showcase the Lowcountry as a place to live, work and play while also potentially cutting down on costs.

“We want people to get a good feeling from coming here. ... Art is a big part of our community,” Airports Director Paul Campbell said.

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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