MSP Airport arts and culture program expands

11:37 AM, Nov 9, 2013   |    comments
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Floor mosaic at MSP Terminal 2

MINNEAPOLIS -- There will be more art and artists at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport in the Twin Cities.

The nonprofit Airport Foundation MSP has created a new position, director of arts and culture.  And to fill it they've hired a person with a familiar face to local TV viewers -- former KMSP news anchor Robyne Robinson.

"More airports want to make the traveler's experience more than just sitting in a chair or laying on a floor waiting for a connecting flight," Robinson told KARE Friday.

"An airport is a living, breathing thing. It's not just a bus station you pass through."

Robinson, who is a jewelry designer and entrepreneur, has formed nonprofit arts collectives in the past and headed arts projects.

"We want visitors to understand that we have amazing artists in this state. They work here. They live here."

She'll be coordinating artists, exhibits and performances at the airport. But the general concept of art at MSP is nothing new.

The Airport Foundation has collaborated on many projects with the Metropolitan Airports Commission, or MAC, since the early 1980s.

Some of them constitute interactive art, such as the grand pianos passengers are encouraged to play.

"You come up the escalator and here's somebody sitting at the piano, and creating something beautiful," Pat Hogan, the MSP spokesperson, told KARE.

"It's always amazing to me the kind of talent I hear out here."

Much of the art is built into new airport expansion projects. For instance, the floor mosaics throughout Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 are MAC projects done in conjunction with the Airport Foundation.

The MAC also looks to create art space or display areas as part of every major terminal construction project.

"About 46 percent of the 33 million people a year who travel through this airport are just connecting. So this is the only part of Minnesota they see," Hogan explained.

"We want to leave them with an impression that Minnesota is a great place to not only live, but to come and visit."

The cost factor

Hogan said the MAC's capital construction budget ranges from $60 to $100 million per year, and the agency sets aside roughly $250,000 per year for art. That figure is less than one percent of the capital budget. 

But those looking for a "taxpayer outrage" angle in this story will be hard pressed to find one. The MAC doesn't receive any funding from the state or local governments.

"We generate the money we need to operate our airports through fees and rents by people who use the airport itself," Hogan explained.

"So the people who are going to be enjoying the art are the people helping to pay for the art."

Screening Room

The Airport Foundation has just built a new movie screening room, in conjunction with the Minnesota Film Board, as a way to showcase short films created locally and give travelers something else to do with down time.

"People are in transit. They don't have time to watch a whole film," Robinson remarked.

"But we want them to know our writers, our producers, our directors, our actors, our talent."

She said you'll find artists working among the baggage handlers and other airport employees, and they even have employee art fairs every year.

"You can go down to some of the docks and see the guys jamming on their pianos late at night," Robinson said.

"That's why we like to say 'Art works here,' and we want to bring it from the basement up here so people can see it."

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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