Patterns of Engagement

by Kathy Greenwood, Director, Art & Culture Program, Albany International Airport

Richard Garrison

Let’s face it – making the proverbial lemonade out of lemons is easier said than done. So, when a decree was issued recently that no public events were to be held at Albany Airport until March, 2020, for me it was lemons all the way down. Hosting festive exhibition receptions, artist talks and other public events has always been a key feature of Albany International Airport’s arts programming and has become a standard benefit to artists who appear in our Gallery exhibitions.

This predicament stemmed from Albany’s success – we simply don’t have enough parking for all of our travelers, much less hundreds of Friday night Gallery revelers. Knocked off a familiar track, I’ve had to reckon with and reinvent our model for Gallery presentations until a new parking garage is completed next year. After much thought, I’ve devised a solution that I’m pretty excited about, and hope that sharing this process of adaptation will generate dialogue about problem solving within our programs.

Patterns of Engagement affords a group of artists the opportunity to conduct observations and investigations into the operations, infrastructure, people and activities that occur within the airport environment. The new work generated from these studies will be included within a standard Gallery exhibition, along with other examples of each artist’s existing work, and in a few cases, will take the form of large-scale, long-term installations.

While our exhibitions have historically been curated to have wide appeal to the outside community, this new model looks inward, reflecting upon what distinguishes this place and time. In one instance, an artist has produced stations at which airport employees can fold paper airplanes during their break time. After collecting these planes, the artist will unfold them and translate the linear patterns into a large-scale wall mural. Two other artists are responding to samples of the debris collected from various demolition projects in the terminal to create new works. Artist Richard Garrison, pictured here, gathers and distills visual information into geometric motifs. For this project, Garrison will produce a series of plein-air paintings from the top of our existing parking garage over a period of weeks. The paintings will document the color of vehicles as they come and go over time, as well as the urgency of our parking situation.

Change is endemic to the airport environment, and those of us lucky enough to lead arts programs have to be light on our feet in order to adapt to what shifts around us. What circumstances have led you to rethink your established patterns and paradigms? How has that disruption ultimately rewarded your program and your audience? Share with us at the Arts in the Airport Workshop, October 15-17, 2019, in Phoenix, Arizona.