There’s something to be said about making a good first impression. And for visitors flying into St. John’s International Airport, a new public art installation is giving them a warm welcome and a whimsical glimpse into what Newfoundland and Labrador is all about.
“Art Upon Arrival,” which officially launched over the winter, is a partnership between Business & Arts NL, the St. John’s International Airport Authority (SJIAA) and artist Molly Margaret, and made possible through funding from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation’s Come Home Year initiative.
When the SJIAA set out on a project to enhance a sense of arrival for visitors, and those returning home, they decided to take a creative approach and connect with the local arts community.
With the goal of infusing the traveller experience with local culture (and giving them the chance to see and feel that they’ve landed in Newfoundland and Labrador the moment they step off the plane), the SJIAA connected with Business & Arts to identify a high-impact place for the artworks. Working with local public art consultant/curator Jane Walker, the team identified eight large columns in the baggage area as the perfect place to add some colour, culture and interest, and put out a call seeking local illustrators and other visual artists to produce vector-based artwork.
In the end, almost 40 submissions were received and reviewed by a section committee consisting of Airport staff, a representative from the funder, and members of the local visual arts community. Ultimately, Molly Margaret was chosen for her vibrant, whimsical and inclusive designs. Her artwork covers eight columns and features 24 scenes that capture the spirit of the province, including boil-ups, catching capelin, hanging clothes on the line, kitchen parties, music-loving mummers and more, as well as local flora and fauna.
“Molly Margaret’s submission was selected because it met the brief really well – she did a really thoughtful job of thinking about what the experience would be of coming down the escalator and seeing the columns. The Airport wanted imagery that would make people from here feel ‘at home’ when they arrived, and people from away to be enticed to step outside and explore,” says Amy Henderson, Executive Director of Business & Arts NL.
“The style is bright, colourful, engaging and is interesting from a distance, but has lots of interesting details that you need to get up close to appreciate.”
When deciding on what scenes to feature, Molly says “I drew from my own experiences growing up in Newfoundland, along with the experiences of friends and family. I also found great inspiration through books, songs and stories.”
Seeing her artwork unveiled for the first time, she adds, was a proud moment.
“This was such a fantastic opportunity for me as an artist, to be able to showcase my work to such a large audience for years to come. I’m so grateful. Seeing large-scale work in person is always so incredible, and I have to thank the printers at Imprint for doing such an awesome job making my work come to life,” she says.
“I got great joy seeing the reactions of people as they viewed it for the first time, looking around at all the little details, as well as the beautiful complimentary messages that came (and are still coming!) as people arrive at the airport.”
Dennis Hogan, Chief Executive Officer of the SJIAA, says the airport was uniquely positioned to participate in such a project.
“As an economic hub with a range of stakeholders, we have a distinct opportunity to showcase our unique culture,” he says.
“From our province’s famous colourful row houses and a nod to Snowmageddon, to winter boil-ups and our unique flora and wildlife, this project truly represents the best of what we have to offer, and is the tip of the iceberg as we work on more to come.”