A new arts director is taking flight at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

With an expertise in public art management, Ben Owen comes to the airport from the Minnesota State Arts Board, where for the past five years he managed the Minnesota Percent for Art in Public Places program. Before that, he worked for the Art in Public Places program at New Mexico Arts in Santa Fe, where he was the project coordinator for five years, managing and planning site-specific and temporary commissions, among other duties.

"I’m honored and humbled and thrilled to be here," said Owen, when reached by phone. "It’s just a wonderful opportunity to really give back to the arts community and showcase the talent and history of Minnesota."

Owen, who has been involved in public arts programming for the past 10 years, was especially excited about the opportunities for artists and cultural institutions in Minnesota. He pointed to a 2017 study from Creative Minnesota, which found that the combined economic impact of nonprofit arts organizations, their audiences, artists and creative workers is over $2 billion annuallly.  

“We’re absolutely thrilled that Ben has joined our team,” Jana Webster, executive director of Airport Foundation MSP, said in a press statement Monday. “Ben’s background and experience are an ideal fit for managing the multiple arts and music programs that are ongoing at MSP Airport.”

Owen replaces Robyne Robinson, who was in the position at MSP for five years. She left to start her own art consultancy firm, FiveXfive, a little over a month ago, though she’ll still be involved with the programming at the airport. A former Twin Cities broadcast personality, she was the first person to hold this unique position.

“Ben was my choice to carry on the work created during my time at MSP,” said Robinson. “I’ll be working with him at MSP Airport on several projects through my public art firm, and looking forward to our collaborative efforts together to make MSP one of the leading arts airports in the U.S.”

The program brings public art to the airport to make the entire travel experience a little more colorful. The next big project is from New York-based artist Jen Lewin, who will be creating a three-story installation in Terminal 1. It is set to be completed by December 2020.