Municipal Art Commission Endorses KCI Public Art Consultant

Efforts to hammer out a public art selection process for the new Kansas City International Airport terminal advanced Jan. 14, when the Municipal Art Commission (MAC) voted to endorse a recommended consultant.

MAC endorsed Community Arts International (CAI), a San Francisco-based nonprofit, as the public art consultant for the project. CAI was recommended in December by James Martin, the city’s public art administrator. Martin said MAC’s endorsement includes a stipulation that the board receive more details at its Feb. 3 meeting about roles, responsibilities and related matters under the pending contract with CAI.

“I’m thrilled at the opportunity to work with CAI,” Martin said Tuesday. “They have a track record of working with public art at airports. This is a major step in the right direction.”

MAC’s endorsement of CAI is the latest development in the effort to choose public art for the new single terminal under development at KCI. The $1.5 billion project, which includes a new garage, is slated for completion in 2023.

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. That figure represents the biggest art budget in the 29-year history of the program.

Contracts involving the terminal and garage project are being managed by the Kansas City Aviation Department. City Director of Aviation Patrick Klein said Tuesday that a contract could be signed by the end of this week between CAI and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the KCI project architect. Klein said the contract’s first phase, which will run for three months, will include a listing of specific sites in the project area for public art and a budget for individual art pieces.

“We’re excited to be moving forward with world-class art in a world-class terminal,” Klein said.

In December, Martin said five project advisory artists would be chosen by a selection panel through an open call. He said then that the panel would consist of perhaps eight people who are involved in area arts organizations.

However, the process for selecting the project advisory artists had not been nailed down as of Tuesday. “While initially we envisioned a panel to select the project advisory artists, due to the passage of time since that plan was hatched, the process of selecting them is currently under review,”Martin said.

The effort to launch the public art selection process at KCI has generated considerable controversy, with some MAC members saying the commission had gotten off track and not been able to fulfill its duties in recent years. The city charter mandates that the One Percent for Art program will be administered by MAC, an appointed panel of volunteers.

In September MAC proposed that the City Council pass a resolution to fund a public art curatorial consultant to lead and implement the city’s vision for public art at KCI. But that proposal, which called for using One Percent for Art funds to pay for the consultant, never made it to the full council for a vote.

Top: Aerial view rendering of the new Kansas City International Airport (courtesy SOM and Edgemoor Architecture & Real Estate)

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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