National Academies Press: OpenBook

Visual Arts Programs at Airports (2020)

Chapter: Summary

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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Visual Arts Programs at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26002.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Visual Arts Programs at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26002.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Visual Arts Programs at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26002.
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1 Visual Arts Programs at Airports Americans have an overwhelmingly positive opinion of the arts and, in particular, the presentation of the arts at airports. Even though the arts have been presented in airports for more than 40 years, there are few sources of information about the operation, manage­ ment, and benefits of airport arts programs. This synthesis fills that gap in knowledge by providing a survey of temporary visual art exhibition programs at 13 domestic airports and by describing the current state of practice for those programs. The airports selected for study as part of this synthesis represent a cross section of U.S. domestic airports. The studied airports are located in geographically diverse population centers of 16,000 to 18.7 million, with yearly passenger totals ranging from 85,000 to more than 87 million. They range from a rural general aviation airport to medium and large inter­ national hubs. Although the studied airports differ in size and passenger totals, their rotating art exhibition programs share a number of common characteristics and provide many of the same benefits. Following a literature review, interviews were conducted with arts managers at each of the airports that were selected to serve as case examples for this synthesis. The information gathered from the interviews and from certain requested documents was then analyzed, reduced to the case examples found in Appendix A, and synthesized into the narrative that forms the body of this paper. Appendix A is integral to this compilation of practice and can be accessed online for color pictures of art exhibits at airports. Because not all the arts managers at the studied airports administer programs that feature the performing arts, those programs are discussed to a lesser extent. Permanent art collections, museums, and art funded through state percent for art programs were not the subject of research and are therefore not included in this synthesis of airport practice. This synthesis identifies many common elements shared by the programs as well as some interesting, if subtle, differences. Perhaps the most significant common element among the studied rotating visual art exhibition programs is the number of benefits such programs yield in relation to their relatively modest program costs. For example, though it is generally accepted that rotating art exhibitions provide an aesthetic enhancement to airport facilities, a recent ACRP guidebook, ACRP Report 157: Improving the Airport Customer Expe- rience (Boudreau et al., 2016), found that visual arts programs also provide the additional benefit of supporting passenger well­being by creating a more pleasing, calming environ­ ment that relieves passenger stress. That same report also concluded that the comfortable, relaxed atmosphere created by airport arts programs produces an environment that not only supports a favorable customer experience, but also increases concessions spending. The customer experience is generally defined as the sum of passengers’ attitudes and emotions associated with their interactions at an airport. Airport arts programs contribute S U M M A R Y

2 Visual Arts Programs at Airports to a positive customer experience by developing a distinctive sense of place through rotating visual art exhibitions that present the culture of the geographical area in which the airport is located. This presentation of local culture generates goodwill for an airport among its stakeholders and its community—at a relatively low cost and without any apparent negative attributes. The case examples in this synthesis also demonstrate that temporary arts programs at airports yield identifiable economic benefits. Not only does the positive environment created by such exhibitions encourage and predispose passengers to increase their spending at airport concessions, but commercial operators have also grown enthusiastic about arts programs—so much so that some concessionaires have voluntarily increased their support for airport arts programs, while others participate in events held by arts programs. Addi­ tionally, the payment of fees to artists supports the local arts community and related busi­ nesses such as art installers and exhibit preparators. One of the case example airports has even performed an economic impact study and estimates that the economic effect of its arts program on the regional economy exceeded $20 million over a 4­year period. Arts programs are also regarded as a valuable method for airports to connect with the communities of which they are members and to generate goodwill among those commu­ nities. Recent research, for example, demonstrates that art exhibitions at airports play a significant role in raising the image and recognition of the airport in the community, in passenger surveys, and to an even wider audience of potential passengers. Similarly, studies suggest that the economic benefits generated by airport arts programs extend far beyond the airport and reach the local community and regional economy. Other common characteristics found among the studied programs include relatively low staffing, a low risk management profile, and a general consensus about program vision and mission statements. Although the studied arts programs differ in their opera­ tions and processes, all the programs were administered by at least one manager and most of them by an arts professional. According to recent hiring trends, airports tend to retain an arts professional to manage their arts programs and to staff those programs with other arts professionals. Airport arts programs exist in a constantly changing environment. Yet most of the studied airports show a willingness to employ a consultative process for addressing the replacement of arts program exhibition space in an effort to make way for remodeling, construction, or the expansion of concessions. When arts program exhibition space is increased, most airports allocate additional resources to the arts program and, if necessary, additional staff. Nevertheless, though the sizes and budgets of the studied arts programs differed, the average cost of the programs was quite modest—$0.02 cost per enplanement (CPE). Financial risks from theft or damage to artwork were also low. None of the studied arts programs reported significant or consistent losses stemming from rotating visual art exhibitions. In fact, such losses appear to be uncommon. Finally, the studied arts programs are generally directed at the same types of audiences and stakeholders, and their vision and mission statements are fairly consistent. The most frequently stated mission statements of airport arts programs are (a) to present a sense of local culture and arts, and to create a sense of place; (b) to reflect the vitality and creativity of an area’s diverse population; and (c) to enhance the airport passenger experience. Although this synthesis provides a significant amount of useful information about a topic that has received little attention, there remain gaps in knowledge about airport arts programs that would benefit from further research. Several airports, for example, have developed program master plans and other guidance documents that facilitate the management of arts

Summary 3 programs and the development of arts program goals. The majority of the studied airports, however, have not yet developed arts master plans. It would be helpful for arts program managers to understand the kinds of arts master plans that have been developed by other airports, their usefulness, their benefits, and how such guiding documents evolve as arts programs change. There are also the matters of marketing and measurement of passenger and viewer engagement with rotating art exhibitions at airports. Research for this synthesis found that the studied arts programs do not generally follow dedicated marketing plans. Nor do they conduct with any regularity the recommended passenger engagement surveys generally considered necessary to plan, manage, and assess the effectiveness of airport arts programs. Similarly, although there appears to be a trend toward airports paying market­based fees for artists and artwork of all kinds, the various forms and methods of fee payments deserve more detailed study—perhaps with a larger sample of airports in a survey format. Finally, several arts managers who do not operate performing arts programs expressed interest in a guidebook that explores the various models for presenting and managing such programs and that describes the best practices for starting up and administering performing arts programming at airports. Such gaps in knowledge suggest that airports would benefit from the extended research and analysis that can be provided by a guide­ book that addresses each of those subjects. Other synthesis projects may also be helpful. For example, airports in countries beyond the United States have well­developed arts programs [similar to the one developed by San Francisco International Airport (SFO), see Photo 1] that have received a substantial amount of industry commentary and atten­ tion. It would be helpful and highly informative to extend this synthesis to the overall experience in such airports; doing so would increase understanding among U.S. domestic airports and their arts program managers of how arts programs in countries outside the United States are managed, funded, and programmed. Photo 1. Zuber: The Art of French Scenic Wallpaper, temporary exhibit. SFO International Terminal, main hall. Photograph courtesy of San Francisco International Airport.

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Every airport that aspires to high ratings must offer an engaging arts program because these are offered by all of the world’s most highly rated airports. It is also now generally accepted that airport arts programs yield many additional benefits for airports, passengers, and the communities in which airports are located. Airport arts programs have become an amenity that airport passengers now expect, and they serve to tether an airport to its local community.

The TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program's ACRP Synthesis 114: Visual Arts Programs at Airports is an initial compilation of practices that airport arts professionals use for understanding the operations, management, and benefits of temporary visual arts programs at their airports.

Supplemental materials to the report include arts program case examples, arts program passenger surveys, and questions used for arts program manager interviews.

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