Airport seeking approval for nearly $4 million art project

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport officials won an important City Council committee vote Wednesday for a plan to spend nearly $4 million on a single art installation in an underground airport walkway.

The long-delayed project to turn the 450-foot corridor between Concourses A and B into a virtual forest with simulated sunbeams, birds, fireflies and a rainstorm would be the most expensive piece of art at the airport.

Council member Yolanda Adrean voted against the measure, raising questions about costs, maintenance and upkeep of the piece, and why the airport didn't reopen the selection process since years have passed since the project was first envisioned.

Airport art program manager David Vogt feels the concept "is still as strong" and thinks the money is better spent on "one monumental piece" that gives a "sense of place," rather than on multiple smaller pieces.

The measure now goes to the full council for a vote Monday.

The Flight Paths project was selected by a committee about a decade ago, but was delayed amid the economic downturn. The early price tag of $1.3 million ballooned to nearly $4 million, including about $2 million for electrical work.

The project, expected to be completed by January 2014, would be funded as part of Atlanta's public art master plan setting aside 1 percent of certain spending for art.

Airport officials estimate after Flight Paths, about $1 million will be left for art, with more allocated as construction continues.

Some believe the art can encourage travelers to walk between concourses. Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Louis Miller estimated 80 percent or more ride the people-mover trains, but the airport in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to put up signs encouraging people to walk.