A few weeks ago I participated in the 2016 China-U.S. Symposium for Children’s Literature. The symposium took place at the Ocean University of China, which is located in Qingdao. To get to Qingdao, I had to fly first to Beijing and then catch a connecting flight. As I made my way through the Beijing Airport, I noticed an art museum that travelers could visit for free. Intrigued, I ducked into the museum and spent an enjoyable 20 minutes looking at the art. The next day, I talked about this experience with one of the other participants at the symposium, and she told me that the airport in Amsterdam has a similar art museum. This got me thinking that the Charlotte airport should have an art museum, too.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport is an ideal location for an art museum. Charlotte is home to one of the busiest U.S. airports. Every day, thousands of travelers have layovers at the Charlotte airport. Many of these travelers spend hours at the airport sitting in the airport’s famous rocking chairs waiting for their connecting flights to board. Charlotte is also home to three prominent art museums: the Mint Museum, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture. These are all dots that can be connected.
All three of Charlotte’s art museums have more art works in their collections than they have space to exhibit. If they worked in collaboration, these museums could provide high quality art works for exhibition at an airport art museum. They could donate works for a permanent exhibit, or they could take turns organizing rotating exhibits.
For the travelers who have layovers at the airport, such a museum would provide them with an opportunity to have a rich cultural experience. They would also be introduced to Charlotte’s vibrant art scene.
For the city of Charlotte, such a museum would help identify the city as a cultural destination, not just a place where travelers spend a few hours waiting for connecting flights. The official motto for the city’s tourism bureau is “Charlotte’s got a lot.” Having an art museum at the airport would give substance to this motto and put Charlotte on the map as a city where the word art is embedded in the very name of our city.
Mark I. West chairs the English Department at UNC Charlotte.