PHL Airport Art Program Featured in Airport Cooperative Research Program Synthesis 

Since its beginning in 1998, PHL’s Airport Art Program has created a unique Philadelphia experience for guests and provided regional artists with the opportunity to showcase their work to the millions of travelers that pass through the airport’s terminals every year. The program’s success put it in the spotlight as part of the recently-published Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) synthesis “Visual Arts Programs in Airports”,  a research paper that explores the benefits of airport arts programs by examining the offerings at 13 U.S. facilities: Los Angeles World Airports (LAX); Miami International Airport (MIA); Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS); Albany International Airport (ALB); Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA); San Diego International Airport (SAN); Portland International Airport (PDX); Indianapolis International Airport (IND); Nashville International Airport (BNA); San Antonio International Airport (SAT); Truckee/Tahoe Airport (TRK); and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).  PHL CEO Chellie Cameron is a member of the ACRP’s Airport Oversight Committee.

“ACRP is a prestigious organization within the airport industry and part of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine,” said Leah Douglas, PHL’s Director of Guest Experience and Curator of the Airport Art Program since its beginning. “To have PHL's arts program included in this significant research paper speaks to the positive impact that such unique visual arts initiatives have on passengers.” 

Airport art programs date back over 40 years, but according to the synthesis, “there are few sources of information about airport arts programs that airport administrators and other interested persons may consult in an effort to understand issues related to the scope and operation of such programs, how they are developed and managed, their associated operating costs, and the kinds of written guidelines and other governance documents that may be useful for their operation.”  Programs can include permanent installations, temporary displays and live performances, however, ACRP focused on rotating exhibitions, as that was the common thread among the airports surveyed.  

While the size of the airports featured in the research vary in size and annual passenger volume, their art programs have produced similar outcomes, such as creating positive customer experiences; establishing a “sense of place that references the local cultural attributes of the region in which the airport is located”; and offering a “calming atmosphere for passengers and a means of engagement during flight delays or downtime.”  

"As the synthesis states, not only do arts programs aesthetically enhance airports but they improve the overall customer experience and passenger satisfaction-- enough so that connecting passengers have commented after seeing the art at PHL, next time, they will choose to stay over in Philadelphia,” said Cameron. “That’s a win for our airport and the city.”  

ACRP recognized PHL for being among the airports “offering arts exhibits that are in sync with the arts scenes of their respective cities”, citing PHL presentation of Philadelphia’s “vital form of street art”. The study continued that “ the underlying goal of the BNA, AUS, LAX, and PHL arts programs is the same: create exhibits that are so in tune with the local culture that they present an indelible sense of their location.”  

Douglas hopes that the study will inspire airports- regardless of their size- to consider instituting art programs at their facilities. “Being included in research that could potentially guide other airports when developing or reimagining their programs, is flattering. We are proud of what we have accomplished at PHL and hope that what we shared with ACRP will motivate other organizations.”  

Because PHL’s art program has a positive overall impact for guests, employees and local artists, Douglas has continued to introduce new exhibitions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. To view current and past installations and take a video tour, click here. 


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Christine Ottow
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