New airport mural will help travelers find their way

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By Kristy Locklin

Pittsburgh International Airport is seeking an unofficial foot-traffic controller with a creative side.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority (ACAA) and the Office of Public Art (OPA) are partnering to produce an artist-designed wayfinding mural in the area that connects the Extended Term parking lot with the airport’s west entrance. The colorful design will enhance visibility, making the journey to the terminal safer for pedestrians.

A call for artists was put out in March. By the April 23rd deadline, 37 submissions were received from people across the globe.

A selection committee comprised of ACAA staff members, airport stakeholders, area business leaders and local arts professionals will choose the winner in late-June. An unveiling of the masterpiece will be held in August.

In addition to having a lot of creative freedom, the artist will work within a $35,000 budget – which covers labor, installation and materials – and receive a $15,000 fee. Depending on the size and intricacies of the design, the artist has the option of applying high-traffic paint to the ground themselves or use or custom-designed thermoplastic, no-slip paving markings. Once installed, the mural will be on display for three years, which is generally the lifespan of the materials.

“I think it’s because the airport is essentially the gateway for our region,” says Rachel Saul Rearick, arts and culture manager for ACAA. “Arts and culture in our space welcomes visitors and gives people a chance to see local art that they may not get a chance to see if they’re only catching a connecting flight or in town for a short time.”

Nearly 9 million passengers travel through the airport each year and the Extended Term Parking lot is the first stop for many of them. In addition to being a busy thoroughfare for air travelers, the site is located along a 6.5-mile spur of the Montour Trail, which is used by thousands of local walkers, joggers and cyclists.

The airport has long been a hub for creative expression through partnerships with regional museums, artists and musicians. Rearick was hired this year to manage the curation of the artwork.

Founded in 2005, the OPA been assisting the facility – as well as other organizations and individuals throughout the 13-county region of Southwestern Pennsylvania – with implementing public art projects. In addition to numerous educational programs, it currently has six active artist residencies, approximately 15 active public art commissions.

The organization helped with the installation of a similar street mural in downtown Pittsburgh called “Strawberry Way.”

“The Allegheny County Airport Authority is truly setting a high-bar with its Arts in the Airport program, and the Office of Public Art is pleased to be providing support to them on another excellent initiative,” says Derek Reese, OPA’s airport liaison. “The project, an artist-designed parking lot mural aimed at providing better, safer travel for all visitors, is an opportunity that artists are excited about, and we look forward to this on-going collaboration with the airport. It’s going to be a fantastic, high-visibility public art project.”

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