The Ministry of Artistic Affairs
Monday, August 29, 2011

A decision by the Indianapolis Airport Authority about whether it will proceed with a controversial move to replace public art with advertising should be made within the next week.

Local artist James Wille Faust received notice in late July that his piece, “Chrysalis,” would be removed from a bulkhead wall that overhangs a busy escalator in the midfield terminal by Aug. 16. “Chrysalis,” however, remains in place after airport officials agreed to reconsider removing it in favor of an advertising video wall.

The airport, though, is moving forward with its advertising plans and is scheduled to have the unit installed somewhere in the passenger terminal the first week of September.

The two-week window means airport officials will need to make a decision on the artwork soon, airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini said.

“We felt that the spot in question [where Chrysalis hangs] made the most sense, but we have reconsidered whether it might be feasible to have that video wall in an alternate location,” he said.

The alternate location airport officials are considering is above Civic Plaza, the main, circular area in the terminal. The video board might hang from a walkway above the plaza if it is installed there, Bertolini said.

Airport officials agreed to reconsider their decision to replace the artwork with advertising after meeting with representatives of the local arts community.

Airport officials proposed moving “Chrysalis” to another high-traffic area in the city, but Faust insisted on having his piece displayed in the airport or not at all, Bertolini said.

If the airport removes the art, the piece still remains a part of its collection, Bertolini said. The airport paid Faust $150,000 for the “Chrysalis” piece.

Faust has declined to comment on the airport plans until an official decision is made.

As a supporter of the arts, Mayor Greg Ballard hopes Faust’s piece remains on display, spokesman Marc Lotter said.

“It is the mayor’s strong belief that visitors should be welcomed to our city with a prominent display of art,” he said.

Bertolini declined to divulge the cost of the video wall, citing incomplete terms of the deal. He said it would have a “substantial presence” and would be as large as the artwork. It would include art created by established local and international artists who specialize in the video genre, he said.

He also declined to say whether the airport has yet signed any advertisers for the video wall or how much it might generate in revenue.

Airport officials have been working harder in recent years to generate revenue and slash expenses amid the stagnant economy that brought a downturn in air travel starting in 2008. That's the same year the airport opened the new passenger terminal that included a highly touted $4 million collection of public art by 17 commissioned artists and six poets.

By Scott Olson in the Indiana Business Journal.

More on this story can be found in the Indy Star.