Albuquerque International Sunport has been declared by USA Today to have one of the top 20 airport art collections in the nation. The final decision for the top 10 airport art collections has been placed in the public’s hands until Nov 11.
The collection, which consistently has anywhere from 100 to 120 pieces, has been thriving ever since the initial expansion of the terminal 25 years ago. The entire collection has a traditional and New Mexican feel to it, an air that public relations and marketing manager Daniel Jiron said the airport has strived for.
“This whole airport really reflects this community, whether it be the artwork, or whether it be the concession programs. For instance, you won’t see a Starbucks in this airport because we have a local company, Black Mesa Coffee, which does coffee just as well as Starbucks,” Jiron said.
On the City of Albuquerque website, Mayor Berry expressed his support for the USA Today rankings.
“What an honor to be recognized, along with the other deserving airports, for what is a priceless collection of New Mexico artwork,” he said in a statement on the website. “We encourage residents and visitors to go online and vote for our airport art collection, which we feel is the best of the best.”
Though a trip to the airport often is limited to either departing or picking someone up, Albuquerque locals are encouraged to come visit the airport and admire the collection, as a large portion of the pieces are on the unsecure side of the terminal.
“Unfortunately, people are a lot of times rushing through the airport, they’re going somewhere. They may not always have the time to stop and appreciate it,” Jiron said. “Folks, while they’re traveling, can maybe take some time to look at it. Even if they’re not traveling, they’re more than welcome to come out and visit the facility and grab a bite to eat and view the artwork.”
The collection features many pieces that would be expected in the Southwest, as well as many that are not as traditional but are still meaningful to the community.
One of these pieces is titled “Dream of Flight” and, though it is on the secure side of the terminal where the A and B concourses meet, it has gathered a lot of attention from passers-by. The piece, commissioned by the airport for the price of $100,000 during the 1988 expansion, was created by Santa Fe artist Lincoln Fox.
According to a 1987 article in the Santa Fe New Mexican, Fox’s sculpture was chosen out of five finalists by the airport. The finished bronze sculpture stands 14 feet tall on its own and is supported by a seven-foot pedestal, making it hard to miss as travelers move throughout the airport. “Dream of Flight” depicts a Native American medicine man being lifted from the ground by an eagle while a man and his son watch from below.
Another art piece that garners quite a bit of attention is the carefully conserved 1914 Ingram/Foster Biplane. This plane, purchased by the city of Albuquerque in 1987, now resides in the great hall and is viewed by hundreds of eyes a month as they go up and down the main escalators.
The collection has only had one program manager, Regina Chavez, who managed the program back when the terminal was in the process of expanding. Her job included acquiring, commissioning and placing the art pieces. Her master plan for the airport helped the collection to grow and become the nationally recognized piece of work it is today.
“We always received a lot of compliments because of the diversity, the individuality and how well it fit into the design of the building,” she said. “Our airport is beautiful because when you arrive you know you’re in Albuquerque and the art reflects that, it supports the character, it supports the artistic quality that we have here. It really was a joy to work with that collection.”
The art can be viewed in places other than the walls of the main terminal. The old terminal, though it now houses offices for the TSA, is still open to the public and displays much of the older artwork. The rental car facilities have increasingly become a hotspot for artwork, according to Jiron. Everything from the architecture of the building to the landscaping is considered part of the collection, he said.
When asked about the total value of the collection, all Jiron said was “priceless”.
“Go vote once a day and, if you have multiple devices, you can vote from all those multiple devices,” Jiron said. “It really is more about showcasing what we have and hopefully making people aware of it and appreciate it. It’s something fun for the community to get behind, something to be proud of.”