KCI Public Art Plans Moving Ahead Despite Consultant Uncertainty

KCI proposed interior

Despite a bit of uncertainty regarding a consultant, plans are moving ahead for public art at the new single terminal project under construction at Kansas City International Airport.

James Martin, Kansas City’s public art administrator, said the city hopes to put out an initial call for artists in late summer or early fall. “We are planning a public outreach on how to apply, and background information on how the selection process works,” Martin said.

Martin said he thinks the first artists or artists will be selected around the end of this year.

At press time there was uncertainty about the role to be played by Community Arts International (CAI), a San Francisco-based nonprofit. Early this year the city designated CAI as the public art consultant for the single terminal project, which includes a new garage. The total cost of the project is budgeted for $1.5 billion. Based on the $565 million vertical construction cost of the new terminal and garage, the city’s One Percent for Art program calls for about $5.65 million to fund public art at the reconfigured airport.

Last February, CAI representatives sounded confident and optimistic when they introduced themselves to members of the city’s Municipal Art Commission (MAC), an appointed panel of volunteers. Michael Lerner, CAI vice president, told MAC members assembled at City Hall that CAI had worked with 11 airports around the world “to choose the best art to stand the test of time.”

Airports that CAI has worked with in the art sphere include San Francisco International Airport, John Wayne Airport (Orange County, California), San Diego International Airport, San Jose International Airport, Miami International Airport, Toronto International Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Singapore International Airport, Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris), Perth International Airport (Australia) and Sydney International Airport (Australia).

CAI was recommended by Martin and was assigned to work with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the architect for the new terminal project. A $59,000, three-month, Phase 1 contract between CAI and SOM included a listing of specific sites in the project area for public art and a budget for individual art pieces.

In a July 8 e-mail to “KC Studio,” Lerner said CAI had completed its Phase One report and had delivered it to SOM at the end of April.

“Sadly, CAI won’t be continuing with the project as KCAD (the Kansas City Aviation Department) has decided to use in-house resources going forward,” Lerner said. “Throughout the process, we were enormously impressed by the vitality of the Kansas City arts community. It’s an incredible resource for the airport.”

When “KC Studio” informed Martin of Lerner’s statement, Martin responded on July 23 by saying that “as of today, it is my belief and hope and understanding that CAI will be continuing with the project, as soon as contractual details can be arranged.”

Martin said CAI had driven research and development for public art at the KCI single terminal project. “This entailed working closely with five project advisory artists and also taking into account results from a public survey about art at the airport.”

“KC Studio” asked Lerner to respond to Martin’s statement. In a July 24 e-mail, Lerner said Martin was “correct in saying that CAI has been asked to continue with the KCI project in some capacity. However, the terms and details haven’t been worked out yet.”

Lerner added that the new terminal “has huge potential to integrate great art into its fabric. If CAI can make a significant contribution toward that goal, we’d like to continue.”

Meantime, Martin said he expected decisions to be made “fairly soon” about the number of public art works and budget allocations for specific locations in the KCI project area.

Julius Karash

Julius A. Karash is a freelance writer, editor and public relations person. He formerly was a business reporter for the Kansas City Star and executive editor of KC Business magazine. He devours business and economic news, and is keenly interested in the relationship between arts and economic development in the Kansas City area.

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