Artist Jen Lewin at her installation "The Pool."

When most people think of the airport, they think of people flying from one city to another. But the transitional, transactional nature of the airport doesn’t preclude folks from seeing artwork along the way.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport recently announced the selection of NY-based new media/interactive sculptor Jen Lewin for a massive, three-story project in Terminal 1. The piece itself, which costs $750,000 including design fees, fabrication and installation, will possibly be suspended from the ceiling of the T1 Departures level down to the T1 Arrivals level.

“All my work is very interactive, and at its core it has this idea of participation where the audience is really part of the work,” said Lewin, when reached by phone from New York. “It’s important for me to talk to the airport staff and the community within the space for different things they are looking for.”

Lewin will return to Minneapolis this June to talk with community members at the airport, including travelers and people who work at the airport and are there a lot. She'll be discussing the light, the weather, and different types of Minnesota-specific experiences.

Artist Jen Lewin

Portrait of artist Jen Lewis

"She's the right artist to propel our goal to 're-imagine' MSP as a 21st century arts airport, one that is a gathering place where people can interact with the work and each other," said Robyne Robinson, Consulting Director, Arts at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.

These are the first stages of a five-year project that began in July 2016. The steering committee for this project includes familiar names in arts and philanthropy around the Twin Cities, such as Jack Becker, Founder of Forecast Public Art; Weisman Art Museum Director Lyndell King, and MCAD President Jay Coogan. The committee selected Lewin from a request for artist submissions issued to 59 artists, 15 of which were based in Minnesota. 

The airport makes sense for Lewin’s work, which is global in scale and very much about bringing together total strangers through movement and interaction. In her piece “The Pool,” she installs circular, light-up pods that look like blood cells in various outdoor urban locations around the world. Visitors step and jump on them, as if hopping across lilypads on a pond. In fact, this is not Lewin's first art installation in Minneapolis. Her piece "Sidewalk Harp" is installed downtown at 500 N 5th Street. In this giant wave-like piece of steel with LED lights, visitors can wave their hands underneath and hear musical sounds.

There's lots of art at the airport. “Dragonfly” by Andrea Myklebust and Stanton G. Sears, is in the Terminal 1 Light Rail Station. A thick band of black tiles that represents a wing, contrasting with the shiny airfoil-inspired curvatures suspended from the ceiling. Airport mosaics with scenery illustrating the outdoorsiness of Minnesota can be found outside many bathrooms.

If everything goes as planned, the project will be done by December 2020. This is contingent on the renovation of the rest of Terminal 1, which includes a new atrium. 

Above: Alliiance drawings of the central area where the sculpture will be placed - it is a thirty-six-foot span from ceiling to baggage in Terminal 1