Hartsfield-Jackson International plans to install a $3.5 million art exhibit on the history of the Atlanta airport in the underground walkway between Concourses D and E.
The permanent exhibit isn’t expected to be ready before summer 2023, but it already has attracted some scrutiny.
The exhibit will be designed and installed by Gary Lee Super Design Associates, which designed the tribute wall to U.S. Rep. John Lewis in the airport’s domestic terminal atrium. Super also designed wall and reader panels for the project by artist Gary Reed Moss called “A Walk Through Atlanta History” in the tunnel between Concourses B and C.
The airport called Super “the ideal person to lead our project” because of his experience, but others questioned the price tag and the purpose.
“Someone needs to explain why we need to spend $3.5 million to explain to people in the airport why the airport exists,” said city council member Howard Shook at a council committee meeting earlier this month.
The project will be paid for with airport funds, but the city council’s transportation committee oversees the airport. The city’s public art master plan has for decades set aside about 1% of capital improvement funds for public art, including at the airport, in accordance with a “Percent for Art” ordinance similar to policies in other major cities.
The Atlanta City Council finance committee on Wednesday voted in favor of a special procurement contract for the work by Super, sending the measure to the full council for approval.
Hartsfield-Jackson plans to make it “a museum-quality installation to tell the story of the Atlanta Airport,” including how the airport was developed and grown over nearly a century, and the “visionaries who have influenced and shaped the Airport’s history,” including city leaders and aviation executives, according to documents submitted to the council.
It will include archived photos and many aerial shots, according to the documents. Airport officials say the exhibit also will include video and other interactive elements.
The airport’s underground walkways already have exhibits between other concourses, including “Zimbabwe Sculpture: A Tradition in Stone” between Concourses T and A, the $4 million illuminated forest walk called “Flight Paths” between Concourses A and B, and the Atlanta history exhibit between Concourses B and C.
Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, airport officials began recommending that travelers consider walking to their concourse in the underground walkway to avoid crowding on the Plane Train people-mover.