Airport art & the sheer delight of trains


"With Time" (2011; cut paper) by Gail Cunningham

On a recent trip through Philadelphia, I found myself with a few hours to fill at the airport. There are the standard diversions: surf the ‘net (provided there’s wi-fi available), browse the shops (which all blur into one another after a few minutes), call someone who’s waiting somewhere else. On this day, I was after coffee. My search, sadly, was in vain (no green & white logo to be found–is that legal?), but I did stumble on art. Other airports have occasional displays, but this place: entire walls were given over to it, and several of them. Such a delight, and good reason to slow down and look at what locals have put on display. On another day, in another city, waiting on another plane, some artists were actually on site, showing their canvases (penguins, moose) and selling prints and cards. Makes one ready to spend more time in airports.

"Heron Wings" (2011; archival pigment print), by Jeannie Pearce

That trip also included Philly’s 30th Street Station, a marvel of a different sort. Soaring architecture, sculpture, old world touches (like a schedule board where letters and numbers–analog, not digital–spin to form new combinations), a great food court (Cosi sandwiches: mahvelous) and fresh flowers in stalls. People mill about the cavernous hall, snapping pix and pointing at banners that fall twenty yards. Agents protect stairways to the trains with velvet ropes. Conductors answer goofy questions with a smile. If you have any call to be close to this place, or can think of a reason to take the train to or through Philly, do.

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