Barkley Regional Airport has selected seven finalists to consider for three permanent art installations in the new passenger terminal next spring.
For the 34-by-7-foot feature wall area, airport authority members chose Ruth Baggett of Paducah; Guy Kemper of Versailles, a former student of Murray State University; and Blake and Hannah Sanders, a couple from Cape Girardeau who taught at MSU.
Nikki May of Paducah, Tim Jaeger of Sarasota, Fla. — originally from Paducah — and Baggett are finalists for the 23-foot-by-8-foot west wall of the gate area. Russel Bash of Paducah, Shanden Simmons of Vienna, Illinois – formerly of Paducah – and May are finalists for the 950 square foot glass wall of the door area.
Fifty-one artists applied – 40 for the wall, 33 for the boarding area and 22 for both – a figure that surprised airport board member Dann Patterson.
“The talent was incredible and we had very competitive entries,” said Patterson, chairman of the ad hoc artistic committee. “The next difficult step is to choose the (final three) finalists.”
Finalists attend an orientation in August and present concept art in October before installation work in March. As before, the artistic committee makes final recommendations to the airport board.
Meridith McKinley, a consultant hired by the St. Louis-based Via Partnership, set clear goals for the new Barkley Terminal: regional art appreciation, local culture and ecology, community pride, and a “wow” experience.
“I think the committee did a fantastic job reviewing the submissions,” McKinley said. “We’ve had a terrific response to the call for artists, and I know the artistic committee and airport board are very excited about the finalists and the ideas they bring to the table.”
Finalist Nikki May recently completed a three-story mural at 315 Broadway as part of the Broadway Mural Project, a joint effort between Paducah Main Street and the Creative & Cultural Council.
“When I heard about the call for airport artists, specifically these glass panels (in the gate area) using the same materials, I thought, ‘Well, I just did,’” said May, owner of Nikki D. May Art and Design and board member of the Yeiser Art Center.
May used artwork from an ongoing three-year project involving state flowers and insects in the mural. “I wanted to identify with Paducah and the area, and it was the perfect connection to the work I was already doing,” she said.
Barkley budgeted some $165,000 for the terminal art, including the commission paid.
“I’m really impressed with the professionalism of their appeal to artists and the fact that they don’t ask artists to work for free or on commission,” May said. “A lot of people ask for free work, but Barkley actually pays the finalists to develop their concepts.”
Runner-up Ruth Baggett said if selected, she hopes her work will spark stories from passers-by.
“Most see my work in two dimensions, but my serious works are installations,” said Baggett, curator of Hotel 1857. Baggett also taught art at Paducah Tilghman High School for 31 years and owned of a gallery on Jefferson Street for 10 years.
Her portfolio project, “Extension of Thought,” merges southern storytelling with Tibetan prayer flags in 25 hand-bound books with handwritten stories, strung on floor-to-ceiling hemp and bamboo.
“At openings, it’s common to see one person turn to another and start telling their own story,” she said. “That exchange of stories is what I want to capture. I come from a family that used to tell stories in a small parlor on Harrison Street.
She said most of her work uses long verticals and horizontals, which suits the required dimensions. On Monday, McKinley called the wide feature wall “a kind of selfie opportunity.”
Barkley requires finalists to have lived, worked or studied within 50 miles of the airport at any given time. On Monday, board member George Cumbee expressed some concern for casting too wide a net.
“I don’t want to throw cold water on this, (but) I’m just trying to be fair to everyone,” Cumbee said, wondering if university students should have qualified as residents for the project. “My understanding when we discussed it was that we stay local, and when we start looking at people who live 250 or 500 miles away, it starts to bother me (if) we cheat the locals.”
Executive director Dennis Rouleau said he eliminated several artists for failing to meet prerequisites during a three-hour meeting last week, where members of the arts committee exhaustively screened applicants.
“When we started we had a wider radius and then we brought it down to 50 miles,” Rouleau said during the meeting, referring to when Barkley first hired Via Partnership to develop a process. call for artists. “Everyone on this list is eligible.”
“These are people who have ties to the region,” council chairman Jay Matheny said. “The one thing I felt looking at the list (of recommendations) was that it wasn’t about random artists from, you know, Seattle, Washington. These artists have lived here, worked here, and to that end they understand what this region is all about.