‘The airport is the new museum’ | How Houston Airports is revolutionizing the way people engage with the arts

Another round of commissioned works, a pair of new performance platforms and artists hard at work inside bustling terminals are helping to welcome passengers to Houston, aka Art City. 

November 29, 2023

At about 50 feet across, a custom section of terrazzo flooring captures attention. In hues of blue, butterflies of various sizes appear to fly flying in or out of a skylight. Construction workers installed the commissioned artwork into a section of the new Terminal D-West pier in November. Passengers are scheduled to appreciate the artwork in the first quarter of 2024.

“This terrazzo flooring is going to be amazing,” said Alton DuLaney, Curator of Public Art for Houston Airports. “It’s gigantic and is one of 12 pieces commissioned by Houston Airports for the new Mickey Leland International Terminal. The terrazzo flooring is part of a multi-dimensional work of art called Paradise. The flooring, suspended sculptures and wall-mounted pieces are all created by Regina Silveira, a Brazilian-based artist. 

The new terminal will feature six additional gates that create six new opportunities for Houston-based artists. Each gate will feature a triptych, a three-part art piece. “Whether our international passengers are arriving or departing, the first or last thing they will see is art created by a Houston-based artist,” said DuLaney. “That’s important and incredibly special, since Houston is fast becoming known as Art City.” 

Colombian artist Carolina Caycedo has designed Nuestros Cosmos. She is making the suspended sculpture out of fishing nets, a homage to Bayou City and its position along the Texas Gulf Coast. 

“Houston Airports thoughtfully chose to represent our local creative community and internationally renowned artists from the Americas,” explained DuLaney. “It’s a crucial detail because Houston’s airports are a gateway to Latin America.”  

Four more pieces of custom art will be installed in the new International Central Processor, which is set to be completed in 2025. From artwork welcoming airport guests to a pair of 280-foot-long pieces created by a Mexican artist and an Argentinean artist and colorful murals guiding passengers across the International Arrivals Curb, the airport system’s public art collection is about to increase in size and value. 

These 12 commissioned pieces valued at nearly $6 million will be a very exciting addition to George Bush Intercontinental Airport, for the millions of passengers we welcome annually and for the entire City of Houston,” said DuLaney. “We also just put out a call for $500,000 in portable works from Houston’s galleries, which will increase representation of Houston-area artists. Our hope is to grow our permanent collection of 350 pieces by another 24 to 50 works of art.” 

According to DuLaney, more artwork and more musicians are coming soon. “We’re about to boom!” 

Harmony in the Air, the performing arts program for Houston Airports just added more performances and more musicians to its roster of about 75 local professional musicians. The new international terminal will feature two new custom stages for live musical performances.  

“The new Harmony in the Air stage that will be installed in Terminal D-West Pier will highlight Houston Airports commitment to excellence in customer service satisfaction. Like the other Harmony in the Air stages, this one will replicate a concert hall in miniature, providing a prestigious branding for Houston Airports,” explained Kruseman. “The stage will be located in an area with great lighting and acoustics and will be a central focus of all the anticipated food and beverage concessions that will be near the stage. The location is primo and will reach a large number of international passengers so the musicians’ exposure and experience will be fantastic! The stage will be surrounded by comfortable seating areas and tables with outlets to encourage the passengers to sit and relax with the beautiful sounds of music!” 

Houston Airports is the only airport system in the U.S. with an active artist-in-residence program. Local professional artists are selected to create art at Bush Airport and William P. Hobby Airport during a three-month-long residence. 

With her art cart, Thedra Cullar-Ledford, the inaugural Art Ambassador for Houston Airports, creates art with children during some of the busiest holiday weekends. 

DuLaney continues to cultivate and expand cultural collaborations between Houston Airports and notable organizations like the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Orange Show and Art Car Parade, Houston Botanic Garden and the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. “There’s always something fresh to see at the airport.” 

It’s no wonder Houston Airports was recognized as having the World’s Best Art in the Airport at the 2023 World Airport Awards. Houston Airports is the first-ever recipient of the international award. 

“The airport is the new museum, and we are leading the revolution,” said DuLaney. “We are committed to providing a 5-Star experience through a world-class arts experience for all passengers.” That’s why the Art Curator encourages people to arrive at the airport early. “There is something to do and see and enjoy at Houston’s airports.” 

New Artist in Residence at IAH

Deborah Ellington is the latest Artist In Residence at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Ellington has been making art for more than 40 years and is the retired Dean of Arts at Lone Star College. She is a painter, sculptor, and educator. She is currently working in glass. Passengers are invited to watch her work on glass sculptures at the Bush Airport Terminal A Connector Gallery on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.


Origin of Funding | Funds for the permanent work of public arts at Houston's airports were allocated by a City of Houston ordinance which mandates that 1.75% of qualified and applicable Capital Improvement Project dollars be set aside for civic art. These funds are generated by the Houston Airport's Enterprise Fund – a non-taxpayer, self-sustaining fund of the City. Under contract and in partnership with MOCA, Houston Arts Alliance administers these city-funded public opportunities to acquire and conserve the City of Houston's public art pieces.