You Have Airport Stories. Now, an Airport Will Write a Story for You.
By Alyson Krueger|May. 21st, 2018
New York Times
Miriam’s Well is re-printing an excerpt of the original.
As part of a showcase for artists at La Guardia in New York, writers will create fictional tales for fliers — and finish them before they land.
Terminal A in New York City’s La Guardia Airport can be a disorienting place. It’s a satellite terminal, meaning it isn’t connected to the rest of the airport. Upon entering you find few of the amenities familiar in America’s busiest airports today. There isn’t a Starbucks or a Shake Shack.
The terminal opened in 1939 to launch seaplanes, it has an Art Deco feel. A 235-foot James Brooks mural, “Flight,” adorns one wall. It was done as part of the Works Progress Administration program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal; during the Cold War it was painted over because critics suspected it carried a hidden Communist message.
The terminal has its share of surprises. And now, passengers arriving or departing there are greeted with one more: a piece of live, performance art.
In a space outside security that used to be a Hudson News kiosk, the writers and close friends Gideon Jacobs and Lexie Smith, who both live in Ridgewood, Queens, have set up a writing nook with stacks of books, wooden furniture, rugs and a vintage typewriter. There they are, writing unique, fictional stories for fliers.
This specific initiative, named Landing Pages, is part of a residency program established by the Queens Council on the Arts and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs La Guardia Airport. Over the coming year Queens-based artists are taking over the airport space for three months at a time to experiment with their mediums. Mr. Jacobs and Ms. Smith are the first (their project began May 2).
There are a few rules. One, customers must approach them. Some visitors see a sign written in chalk on a blackboard that says, “We will write you a story. Ask Us!” More often, people come up looking for the bathroom or rental car facilities. “Some days I feel like I work here,” Mr. Jacobs said. “I even have a parking spot.”
Those who choose to participate provide their flight number and contact details. The writers then draft a story for them while their flights are in the air, and text it to them before they touch down.
“The time constraint is a fun challenge,” Ms. Smith said. “We definitely follow flights to see if they are delayed. There was one that was by two hours. We were happy for the extra time.”
The duo writes an average of six stories a day. They hope to finish 50 by June 30, when their project ends, and compile them in a book. “We’re probably going to self-publish and give it to whoever will take it,” she said.
After Mr. Jacobs and Ms. Smith finish, Sandra Lopez-Monsalve, a multimedia producer, will be up. She will record ambient noises around the airport and make an electronic map with them. Anyone will be able to go online, click on a spot on the map, and play the sounds heard every day in that exact location.
After that Sherwin Banfield, a visual artist, will draw the passengers walking by him and then do a large mural based on the sketches. Finally, Brian Soliwoda, the co-founder of Salt Tree Art, a design firm that focuses on using sustainable and regenerative products, will create a sculpture of a clipper ship in honor of the terminal’s seaplane history.
“A lot of airports have art,” said Lysa Scully, the general manager of La Guardia Airport. “But having active and involved art that customers engage with, that is the unique model. I haven’t seen that anywhere.”
Things like this delight me. I wish I could say why. A few years ago, in Union Square station in NYC, I was rushing after a friend, and I saw a line of people standing still along a wall outside the flow, patiently waiting. At the end of the line was a young man seated at a tiny portable table with a manual typewriter. A sign said, “Free Poetry.” He was typing away. I slowed down and stared, irritating people behind me, and I lost my friend for a minute, but oh it pulled my attention even as I struggled to get somewhere on time. It was like catching someone’s eye on the escalator as they’re going up and you’re going down. I enjoyed Alain de Botton’s time as writer-in-residence at Heathrow, but this gift of a story for the end of your flight is particularly charming.