Five years ago, former broadcaster and arts champion Robyne Robinson was offered a unique opportunity to become the art director at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. Best known around the Twin Cities for her 20-year career as an anchor at KMSP-TV, Channel 9, and also the first African-American woman to anchor a local primetime newscast, Robinson is now embarking on her next adventure: a public-art consulting firm, Five x Five, which also includes a design blog of the same name. She'll continue art consulting for the airport while adding more clients. I caught up with her to talk more about this next creative adventure. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Where'd the inspiration come from?
“Five x Five” is an idea I wanted to do as a blog when I started as art director at the airport in 2013. I came on and was immediately excited by the atmosphere. I love airports. I love walking through airports, listening to Brian Eno’s "Music for Airports." People are always going somewhere. Where are they going?
Working with the architects at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport gave me the idea. We'd go to these conferences and they were full of city administrators, designers, artists, that were all talking about the future of airports. What is a 21st century airport going to look like? How will it be shaped around the community?
What is it about art at airports that fascinates you?
With more people flying and less planes in the air, there is a lot of standing time at airports. You know the amount of time it takes to get from home to airport to the gate. The idea is to give this feeling, calming yourself down and giving yourself a break from this stress. We want to de-stress everyone once they get into an airport. So you’re gonna start seeing more opportunities to integrate into the airport as your town hall, your meeting place. That’s what this Terminal 1 sculpture we are working with Jen Lewin on is really about (a three-story-high work planned for installation in 2020) — it is about bringing the community to the airport. Zaha Hadid, the architect who passed away in 2017, was so inspiring for airports.
So will you be leaving your position as MSP's art director?
I am transitioning out of the job. There will be a search for a new art director. I will be there until they find the right person. I can’t say when, but hopefully soon. I will work with that person to get them into the role, but will also continue working with the airport as a consultant.
What else will you be doing with Five x Five in addition to consulting?
Referrals and acquisitions. Lots of talks. I am currently working with Chris Mars, formerly of the Replacements. He is a master artist, just a brilliant artist. He's had the opportunity to show his art all over the world. Because we’re small, that’s about it. Just getting the word out to the architecture industry.
What is the "art park" you’re working on at the airport?
Art Park is right now in the talking stages. It is a mile-long stretch of land between Terminal 1 and the Intercontinental Hotel that is open to travelers and the public. We want to conceive a park that embraces the Minnesota landscape, and also provide art at MSP. People at Intercontinental can use it for weddings and receptions. But it will also be a meditative space. It's still in the planning stages.
I’ll be working on that as well as the Silver Ramp (a new 5,000-space parking ramp planned for the airport's Terminal 1). I can tell you that GoodSpace Murals, which is Greta McLain and Candida Gonzalez, were just selected to do mosaics for the Silver Ramp restrooms. We are going to be doing a new façade on that Silver Ramp as well. I’m so glad the architects want art in that space.
Is Five x Five just you?
I have a part-time assistant. I just started this in January. I think this is an accumulation of working in the arts and on television. I don’t want to say "scary" — it’s exhilarating. It’s really just exciting. It’s all so new for me, but it’s not.
What does the name mean?
It’s an aeronautic term that means “clear sailing,” or “clear skies.” I see that as a vision for me. I was talking with a millennial, and she was like: "Buffy (the Vampire Slayer)!' Every time they go out to kill a vampire they yell ‘5 by 5!’” And I was like, great. But for me, it’s more of an aeronautical term.