Rochester, like Buffalo, should be proud of its Airport Art

Rochester, like Buffalo, should be proud of its Airport Art

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Artist Karina Kaikkonen discusses her latest installation “We Share a Dream” at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport 10/15/15 [Credit Chris Caya, WBFO, Buffalo’s NPR station]

In the 24 hours after Jeff Spevak’s May 6th article, Rochester airport mulls case of art vs. business (D & C), Richard Margolis’ Petition to County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo to restore public art in the Greater Rochester International Airport received 150 new signatures. (FULL ARTICLE AT END)restore

Last night at the First Friday events in the Anderson Arts Building, in Richard’s studio I had the privilege of watching as the 500th signature so far was submitted at 8:00 pm. Since, there have been 50 more.

As Richard explained, he began the petition with one signature (his) and not knowing what to expect. After the petition —  done through — looped its way through social media (and on this site), important conversations about public art have been sparked, in part leading to Spevak’s article (Richard found it to be fair and factually accurate).


Richard Margolis outside his studio in the Anderson Arts Building 5/6/16

Richard, along with others, has long advocated for public art. In 1984, he and others founded Photo Archives Belong In Rochester (PABIR). The effort helped keep archives slated to move to the Smithsonian in Washington where they belong — in Rochester at the George Eastman Museum.

Richard’s message is upbeat and optimistic. While less successful in saving the Hojack Swing Bridge at Charlotte, Richard says advocacy is always worth trying. Many said the archives were sure to go to the Smithsonian, but when people got involved, the archives stayed in Rochester. And look how far the petition and the conversations generated have gone in just a few weeks.

In those weeks, many petition signers included comments:

Several pointed out the aesthetic shortcomings of the airport:

Our airport is gray, boring, generic and unwelcoming.

Advertising flattens the place and turns it into any forgettable, empty, soulless space.

For a small airport, Rochester’s used to look polished and classy. It’s starting to look like a mall.

Some felt the airport does not live up to its name:

It’s a poor excuse for an “international” airport.

The Rochester Airport is not only not international, it is a visual embarrassment.

One commenter, apparently, had read our piece:

Whenever travelling, I check out the art in other airports. Makes us look pretty provincial to paper over our art. Already the airport is only “International” because planes fly to Canada. For some more on Richard and his work with emerging artists see:

One comment summed the situation perfectly, including a reflection on other airports.

I was just at the airport and completely bored with all the grey tile and paint decorated with retail signs. It’s sad to think that it once had a fantastic representation of some of Rochester’s most prominent artists, only to have most of it disassembled. I’ve seen some pretty incredible airports through my travels – good design and architecture, art installations and even performances. Makes layovers much more pleasing.

Perhaps the best comment comes down the road at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. An October 15th, 2015 article describes a ceremony celebrating the latest public art work in the airport. The installation, “We Share a Dream,” resulted from a partnership between the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Erie County.

Recently, Buffalo seems to be outpacing Rochester as a cultural and entertainment destination. Dropping the ball on the art in our International airport doesn’t help. Come on pols in dark suits, you too can have the same “ready for take off” photo op in the Greater Rochester International Airport.

spevak 1 darkenedspevak 2 darkened


from “Jill Gussow’s homage to the raucous crows of the South Wedge”


Jill Gussow’s homage to the raucous crows of the South Wedge

Blessing the Boats and a statue where history was made at Edgerton Park

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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