Airport wants to smooth over artwork controversy

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The Indianapolis Airport Authority decided Friday morning to spend $105,000 on an effort to smooth over the controversy sparked by a 2011 decision to replace a popular piece of art with a video wall.

“This decision resulted in dissatisfaction expressed by some members of the public, the Indianapolis Arts Council, and certain elected officials within Marion County,” Executive Director Bob Duncan said in a memo to the authority.

The decision to remove James Wille Faust’s “Chrysalis” was made under former airport President John Clark.

Duncan would like to commission a new Faust work, “Wings in Flight,” to be hung on the limestone wall on the north side of the entrance to the terminal’s Civic Plaza.

“Chrysalis” was commissioned as part of the airport’s $4 million public art program. Although the airport was within its legal right to take down the piece, Faust was offended. Faust said he’d produced “Chrysalis” specifically for its location over a busy escalator with the understanding that it was a long-term installation.

“Chrysalis” remains in storage, as Faust and airport management couldn’t agree on a suitable new location, airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini said. Discussions about how to remedy the situation have gone on for the past year.

 “We’re cognizant of the fact it’s a public space, and public art is widely appreciated,” Bertolini said.

The video board brings in about $100,000 a year in advertising revenue, Bertolini said. The advertising rotates with video art, which the airport commissions for $1,000 to $3,000, he said.

Faust’s proposed new work would consist of three 5-foot by 6-foot canvas panels painted in acrylic.


  • Does Indianapolis have class?
    My work took me to airports around the world. Chrysalis was a magnificent piece that gave our airport "front door to the city" a unique cache. Simple minds, cheap thinkers, people without class or vision decided to remove it. They were wrong. It is time to correct that and re-install it and regain dignity. If there is an opportunity to install another Faust in another location, all the better. Only Indianapolis can lay claim to being the home of this world class artist. We should celebrate that and give Indianapolis visitors something beautiful and memorable to see.
  • Revenue
    I'm lost. The video board makes the airport $ while the artwork costs the airport $. The artist has received his compensation I assume. I appreciate the airport's nod to fiscal decision-making when appropriately reasonable or necessary.
  • No Way
    $105,000.00? C'mon. It was ridiculous what happened, but this is ridiculous too. Just get out the other piece and save the money. Shouldn't something like this be put out for a request for proposal for all artists? Is this public money?
  • Not all passengers are Smartphone users
    Your comment that you were able to get all the information on the terminal, food, gates, etc., is wonderful. Believe it or not, grandmas sometimes travel, too, so are you suggesting proper signage IN the terminal is not necessary since we're in the digital age?
  • Liberate "Chrysalis"
    The fact that former voices at the IMA and elsewhere called for the unconscionable removal of Chrysalis should not deter current managers from righting wrongs. Commission more Fausts AND replace Chrysalis!
  • Signage
    Dennis - I pulled up interstate, parking and terminal maps for IND on my phone in 15 seconds. Subcategorized with flight, food, amenity and shopping locations. Signage is not the answer.
    • Video Walls :P
      The video board at the airport sends the wrong message to guests visiting Indianapolis. And the video art is indeed a compromise to make the billboard slightly more palatable. While I appreciate the gesture of the airport to make amends with Mr. Faust, one of our city's most important artists, this effort does not change the wrong that was done to turn a buck. I hope also that this conversation about art, advertising and "video walls" continues as the Massachusetts Avenue fire station block proposal comes to fruition. Please don't ruin Mass Ave with such a monstrosity and attempt to disguise such a weak idea as art.
    • A few more $ on signage
      and a few less on 'art' is what this billion dollar white elephant desperately needs. Yes, IND was too small for growth but the airport commission's plan for a new facility to compete with ORD and CIN lacked a plan. I have right at 1.75M (yes, million) frequent flyer miles and those put me in airports all over this country and much of the world. I think I'm qualified to say that IND ranks amongst the worst as a passenger-friendly airport. Signage on the concourse is great if you're hungry or, if want a Harley shirt, you're in luck. Gate? Concourse? Better have good eyes or a GPS. Off airport parking? Pack a lunch. Where do you pick up the shuttle? You'll have better luck playing the Powerball than finding that on your own. Where were the frequent flyer focus groups used to plan this airport? They were not used. Huh? This taj mahal was designed by an architect without any experience in planning airports or familiar with travel efficiency. Artwork? Indeed. Traveler-friendly? Nope.
    • this vs that
      Chrysalis inspired me -- every time I saw it, I appreciated the message and artistry, and was proud of where I live and the vision of the planners, and felt peaceful. Video board bothers me -- I avert my eyes in disappointment so as not to feel assaulted by messages I neither want nor need.
    • Both
      I want both. The return of Chrysalis AND new work from James Wille Faust. It is the least the airport can do to make up for the debacle.
    • Restore Chrysalis !
      Mr. Faust's work "Chrysalis" was commissioned and designed for that original location to make a warm "welcome" statement to everyone arriving in our vibrant city. I always looked forward to seeing it upon entering the airport. It was a giant slap in his face to remove it, especially for a rude, mindless electronic sign. Why can't it be reinstalled as Mr. Faust and all of us intended. I think it would say to the world, "We made a mistake, but we fixed it." We do want to give you a smile and a wink and a friendly greeting when you come here to see us. Part of being that "special place" is to be able to make missteps in the process of growing. I vote to re-install a great piece of art.
    • Why The Video Art
      If Wille can't hang there what's the purpose of the video art...is that a contrived compromise to make Clark and the airport folks feel less guilty? $3K for token video art? Why not keep full advertising and make another $25-50K for the airport? But, yes, we need to re-hang Chrysalis and the new pieces!
    • Steve...you're absolutely right.
      Just wanted to say that I agree 100% with your comments. What was a true work of art has been replaced with yet another electronic billboard with a sales pitch. Another sacrifice of class for the $$$. Let's hope they come to their senses.
    • Ugly Ugly Video
      It's bad enough that the board replaced JWF's artwork. But what's really awful is the very low-rent quality of the content on that board. It didn't have to be that way, there's nothing inherently awful about large scale video. (See the lobby at the Cosmopolitan in City Center.) It's the complete lack of care in the creation of content that really makes it offensive. So yes, commission a new piece from JWF. Perhaps we can replace the terrible assemblages behind baggage claim.
    • Bring Back "Chrysalis”
      I agree completely with Steve's comments. And, Brandon is also right. Why spend the equivilent of the video board earnings on another piece of art when we have a terrific one in storage.
    • Why not both?
      Bring back the beautiful "Chrysalis" and remove the hideous video screen AND purchase a new Faust for the airport. We want art at the airport, not silly videos. "Chrysalis" is beautiful and was so welcoming.
    • Money
      So they're going to spend the equivalent of what the video board makes in a year on a new piece of art when they have a perfectly good one by the same artist in storage? I feel it would be cheaper to move the video board to another location and reinstall Chrysalis where it was. Chrysalis can't just go anywhere. A video board can.
    • Bring back “Chrysalis”
      I miss “Chrysalis” greatly. It set the tone for the rest of the art in the main lobby before you go through security. It's color and beauty along with it's sheer size let you know that art was the inspiration for the airport and its architecture. The video screen does not do that. Today, there are so many video screens that they do not attract the attention they once did. Even if it does bring in $100,000 a year, that does not cover half of the executive director's salary. It is an insult to the taxpayers who paid for this art to have it in storage. Free the “Chrysalis”. Let art soar.
      • IND Sculpture
        What's the status of the IND sculpture which was slated to be installed atop the terraced mound at the airport entrance?

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