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Art in transit: Lambert Airport’s gallery spaces help local artists take flight

Shevaré Perry’s “FLAWLESS BEATS: Pop Portraits of Women in Hip Hop and R&B” is displayed on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, near gate E33 in Terminal 2 of the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The work celebrates the influence and creative essence of artists including Solange Knowles, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Cardi B, and Queen Latifah.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Shevaré Perry’s “Flawless Beats: Pop Portraits of Women in Hip Hop and R&B” is displayed on Thursday near Gate E33 in Terminal 2 of St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The work celebrates the influence and creative essence of artists including Solange Knowles, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Cardi B and Queen Latifah.

St. Louis artists often struggle to gain exposure for their work. Many have found some by landing space in a gallery of sorts that’s visited by millions of people a year: St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

The airport’s Art and Culture program includes 12 exhibition spaces for local artists throughout its spaces. Some work is displayed in a dedicated gallery area; others are located in spaces near baggage claim, alongside the people movers and on the walls of the terminals.

Airport workers finished installing the latest round of artwork this week. The pieces include paintings by Neeka Allsup, digital collages by Alison Sissom and chess-themed artwork curated by the World Chess Hall of Fame.

“There is an investment in St. Louis artists in that program that is sometimes really hard to find. It’s an incredible opportunity for so many eyeballs that the artists can’t usually get on their own,” said Douglas Dale, who creates sculptures made of wood and yarn.

Artwork is displayed for about six months before a new round takes its place. The program receives 100 or so applications for each cycle. Artists receive stipends of $1,000 to $3,500. Some artists have taken the more lucrative step of selling their artwork to people who discovered it at Lambert.

Dale’s exhibition, “A Frayed Knot,” is on view by some windows in Terminal 1, near the exit from Concourse C. Their sculptural combinations of wood and fiber suggest a mixing of masculine and feminine qualities. The work is inspired by theater, drag and the club scene, Dale said.

St. Louis-native Sarah Bernhardt’s “Manna” is displayed on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at the Concourse C-based Kling Family Gallery in the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The works, which are made of mirrors and photographs situated in empty vitrines explores “the synergy between wonder and knowledge.”
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis-native Sarah Bernhardt’s “Manna” is displayed on Thursday at the Concourse C-based Kling Family Gallery in the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The works, which are made of mirrors and photographs situated in empty vitrines explores “the synergy between wonder and knowledge.”

On the way toward Gates 34 to 40 in Terminal 2, visitors can find seven paintings of locations in St. Louis by Amy Bautz. The exhibition is called “Homesick.” Bautz wants to encourage visitors to think about how their own neighborhoods might be viewed by visitors from elsewhere.

In the Kling Family Gallery, which visitors can access without having to pass through the security check, Rachel Lebo’s “Her Lilac Quilt” exhibition includes paintings showing scenes from the life of a fictional character created by the artist.

Lambert’s art program was initially part of a broader effort to spruce up the facility after American Airlines dropped its hub there in 2009.

“There was just a lot of angst and really a lot of uncertainty about the airport. And what we wanted to try to do very early on was re-create sort of a sense of pride in the airport,” said Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge. “We started thinking about how we can showcase the airport. How do we bring more of St. Louis into the airport, and get that sense of pride from all of our visitors and all of the residents in the region?” she added.

The art also gives visitors to the region a sense of the breadth of work made by St. Louis artists, Hamm-Niebruegge said.

Douglas Dale's "A Frayed Knot" on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Terminal 1 of the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The collection of yarn and wood sculptures seeks to draw inspiration from spaces where reality is the product of illusion: camp, drag, theater, and the club scene.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Douglas Dale's "A Frayed Knot" on Thursday in Terminal 1 of the St. Louis Lambert International Airport. The collection of yarn and wood sculptures seeks to draw inspiration from spaces where reality is the product of illusion: camp, drag, theater, and the club scene.

Airport leaders pay for the program through grants, an annual gala and other fundraising.

For Shevaré, being included in Lambert’s art program has brought an unexpected amount of visibility.

Her exhibition “Flawless Beats: Pop Portraits of Women in Hip Hop and R&B,” is inspired by the pop art of Andy Warhol. It includes digital collage portraits of Solange Knowles, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Cardi B and Queen Latifah. It’s located in Terminal 2 across from Gate E33.

“I see people take selfies and post on social media and tag me. Or they send me videos of themselves in the airport with the artwork,” Shevaré said. “I didn’t know people would interact with it in that way. That means a lot. It means that my work is actually getting out there and it’s reaching people. It’s encouraging.”

Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.