Art in the airport? You bet.

Travelers can slow down and enjoy some Fort Wayne culture while they wait for arrivals or departures

FORT WAYNE NEWSPAPERS Artwork on display in the West Gallery of Fort Wayne International Airport
COURTESY FORT WAYNE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT Local artist Robb Owen has his work displayed near the gates at Fort Wayne International Airport
COURTESY FORT WAYNE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT Art in the Airport is a program designed to feature work from local artists where many visitors first set eyes on our city — Fort Wayne International Airport.
FORT WAYNE NEWSPAPERS The West Gallery at Fort Wayne International Airport.
FORT WAYNE NEWSPAPERS Artwork on display in the West Gallery of Fort Wayne International Airport
FORT WAYNE NEWSPAPERS Artwork that can now be found at Fort Wayne International Airport

Someone who knew of Robb Owen’s artistic endeavors forwarded him a link one day, and that’s how this began for him.

An organization was looking for art to display. While an engineer by trade, Owen has been creating art his entire life. A little over a year ago some of his works made their way into a gallery for the first time. Since then, he’s displayed his work in other galleries as well, but the place seeking art for its walls this time around was a tad unique.

That organization?

The Fort Wayne Airport Authority.

Authority officials unveiled Owen’s work at Fort Wayne International Airport this week as the year’s first of several planned “Art in the Airport” displays, which brings the work of local artists to one of the first places visitors see when they come to the Summit City.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t expect this,” said Owen, who last week set up his work for airport goers. “It’s a huge deal for me.”

For the last several years, airports all over the country have spruced up what has typically been buildings of constant motion — going from one line to another; then a terminal; then a gate, a plane, etc. — with public art displays.

So much so art work factored heavily into the renovation of LAX in Los Angeles and plays a giant role in big city airports found in Denver, Miami and even Indianapolis. The Indianapolis Airport Authority even partners with local arts organizations to bring displays for those coming to our state’s capital.

Fort Wayne jumped on board with its own program about six years ago, and for the last two it has been in the hands of Katie Robinson, the airport’s marketing specialist.

“In a lot of cities, art is becoming a real big part of the community and plays a part in pulling the community together,” Robinson said. “The airport program is an extension of that. The airport is the first thing a lot of people see here, so it’s a good starting point for them.”

The way the program works goes like this:

Airport officials put a call out for art. Artists can submit their works, and then a number of them are chosen to be displayed throughout the year — at no fee for the artist. Thus, the program provides free exposure for the artist and a free art showing for travelers.

Last year between 10 and 15 artists submitted work. This year Robinson received roughly 30 submissions.

“We doubled the submissions, and that was kind of one of my goals,” Robinson said. “I wanted artists to know this is at the airport and they can be a part of it.”

So far, the airport has only asked for art that can be hung on walls — no sculptures as of yet. And while there is a mini-gallery by the ticket windows on the airport’s west side, the bigger gallery is past the security check in the area of Gates 5 through 8 — which is where people waiting for a plane or coming off a plane can take some time to enjoy something different.

“I’m real happy with how it’s set up,” Owen said. “I know it will get a fair amount of attention.”

And hopefully it brings a little culture, levity and maybe a pleasant distraction or two for travelers making their way through the hectic world of air travel.

Plus, it’ll give them a small sense of who we are.


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