Memphis Airport Gets $1.5 Million for Public Art


The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority Board of Commissioners has approved a  $1.5 million expenditure for a public art project.

This, according to a statement on the Memphis International Airport’s website.

The statement went on to say the UrbanArt Commission will lead a new art program for the airport’s modernized B Concourse.

As The Tennessee Star reported in 2018, far fewer people use the airport than they did in prior years.

“The UrbanArt Commission will lead the creation of an ongoing art program, which will include identifying locations to place artwork, researching installation techniques and methods, reviewing art submissions, commissioning artwork, and coordinating installation,” the Memphis International Airport statement continued.

“The selection of the UrbanArt Commission is based on a recommendation from the MSCAA Ad-Hoc Art Committee, which consists of Airport Authority board members, employees and local leaders in the art community. The committee will be responsible for the final selection of artists for commissioned pieces. Recommendations from UrbanArt Commission include five new site-specific commissions and acquiring art for installations throughout the gate areas of the modernized concourse.”

According to the Urban Art Commission’s website, UAC works to establish the percent-for-art program with the City of Memphis, which annually allocates a percentage of the City’s capital improvement funds to public art projects.

As The Tennessee Star reported last year, the federal government gave the Memphis International Airport $15 million in taxpayer money for improvements and for economic development.

This, despite The Tennessee Star’s past reporting showing fewer and fewer people use the Memphis Airport now versus how many people used it slightly more than a decade ago.

As The Star reported in 2018, the Memphis International Airport has had a dramatic decrease in the amount of traffic that goes through there.

In a report that came out at the time, the New York Times described the Memphis airport as “a glaring casualty of an airline merger that transformed the American aviation industry but cost the Mid-South’s most important city its status as a hub.”

As the Times went on to say, there once was a time when Northwest Airlines was the dominant carrier. Delta Airlines eventually gobbled it up. Delta then decided it only needed one hub in the South, in Atlanta.

“The decision cost Memphis almost two-thirds of its passengers,” according to the Times.

“From more than 11 million in 2007, the last full year before the merger announcement, the count fell to about four million last year.”

The result — three concourses are left and most of its gates are unused. Airports officials will spend $219 million to close and renovate one concourse and mothball the other two.

According to an airport press release from January, more than 4.4 million passengers came through the airport in 2018.

As The Star reported, federal taxpayers shelled out $43.3 million to improve the airport, via an FAA grant.

Exactly $28.5 million of that money reimbursed airport officials for reconstructing two taxiways. The remaining $14.7 million, meanwhile, went to rehabilitate the Memphis International Airport’s Concourse B.

Memphis International Airport spokesman Glen Thomas, in an emailed statement, said at the time the airport qualified for the federal funding, even though it seemed like a ghost town.

These funds, Thomas said, involved federal Airport Improvement Program money. Under federal law the aviation system generates that money. That money is then apportioned back to airports based on their activity stats.

“In this case, to Memphis based on the amount of cargo enplaned here (we are the world’s 2nd busiest cargo airport) and the number of passengers enplaned,” Thomas said in his statement to The Tennessee Star at the time.

The Fed-Ex global hub is at the Memphis Airport.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Memphis International Airport” by Memphis International Airport.







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3 Thoughts to “Memphis Airport Gets $1.5 Million for Public Art”

  1. Cannoneer2

    Why not grants to businesses? Tennessee’s businesswhiners could use that money.

  2. Pissed Off Nashvillian

    I’m guessing no Civil War statues ?

  3. Dwayne Oxford

    Why bridges are unsafe.