Why This Matters: Charlotte-Mecklenburg artists will have their works viewed by regional, national and international travelers at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
By Bernie Petit
There’s a flying gator at the airport.
Other animals are in flight, too, including fish, a horse and a bear.
They’re from the mind of Charlotte artist Ráed Al-Rawi and they are found in the two murals he created for Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT).
“Most of my paintings have thought-provoking ideas and conversational themes,” Al-Rawi explained. “The whimsical theme I chose is to give a simple smile to the busy travelers and perhaps a moment to mesmerize. Also, it is for the kids to enjoy playing with their imaginations.”
As part of CLT’s ongoing terminal improvement program, ASC, in partnership with the Public Art Commission and CLT, commissioned five Mecklenburg County-based artists to create original murals for the airport. The mural program showcases the artistic talent found in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and allows local artists to have their works viewed by regional, national and international travelers.
The first four murals – two by Al-Rawi and two by Nico Amortegui – were celebrated last month as CLT unveiled its redesign of Concourse B.
“Journey 1” and “Journey 2” – the airport murals by Al-Rawi, an Iraqi-American artist who began his career as an illustrator and cartoonist – reference how travel impacts the entire self.
“Traveling is not only going to our destinations through these metal tubes we call airplanes, it’s also traveling in our mind and thoughts,” he said. “I consider it as our journey in life (with) the imagination of flying creatures representing freedom from gravity.”
Other local artists whose murals will go up at the airport in the coming months are:
- Charlotte native Nellie Ashford, a “self-taught folk artist” whose work is rooted in memories of life as experienced by Charlotte’s African-American community during the era of “Jim Crow” racial segregation in the American South.
- Jonathan Grauel, an artist and web developer living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He creates semi-representational narratives portraying travel destinations as landscapes seen or remembered through a psychologically, emotionally and spiritually-charged lens.
- Charlotte native Ben Premeaux, an artist and educator with a passion for photography and video. His work experiments with optical illusions and “impossible” perspectival views to provoke a childlike sense of wonder and questioning of the world in which we live.
Additionally, local artists Amy Bagwell and Ruth Ava Lyons were recently tapped to create murals for Concourse C.
“It’s amazing just to have more art in the city,” Amortegui, whose airport murals are a celebration of women, told The Charlotte Observer. “That’s the biggest thing, to have it in an airport which is so busy. Sometimes it helps to break through the craziness.”