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Enjoy Magazine

Sacramento Airport Art

02/22/2016 12:15PM ● By Sue Ralston

Flights of Fantasy

March 2016

By Sue Ralston

Flying out of Sacramento International Airport on your next vacation? Make your waiting time go faster by slowing down and checking out the art there. The airport is home to 18 works of art, thanks to funds provided by the city’s Art in Public Places program, which requires at least 2 percent of construction budgets for public projects to be spent on art. Some highlights:

Red Rabbit, by Lawrence Argent

Anyone who’s passed through Terminal B likely has noticed the 56-foot-long red rabbit, suspended by barely-visible cables, seemingly leaping in from the outside. On the floor below the rabbit is a large granite “suitcase” he appears to be aimed for. This iconic sculpture inspires awe in children and adults, serves as an obvious meeting point and has helped the airport earn the designation as one of the best airports in the nation for public art. Red Rabbit (formally known as Leap) is made of steel and aluminum, and even has its own Facebook page and merchandise such as T-shirts and cards available.


An interactive, 10-foot-high brass-colored horn provides a computer that, when people type text into it, transforms the text into music that emanates from the sculpture, allowing users to become composers as well as viewers and listeners. Passengers can be seen swiveling around in Terminal B to try to figure out what they’re hearing and where the sound is coming from. The two artists have collaborated for more than 15 years and have the goal of inviting the public to become co-creators of the artwork.

Acorn Steam, by donald lipski

Also located in Terminal B, Donald Lipski’s massive sculpture appears to be an oak tree dangling from the rafters. But it’s not your typical Valley Oak, though it is inspired by one. Wired with more than 3,000 LED lights, and with Austrian crystals of varying sizes wired into the tree to catch the light – both from the LED bulbs and from the natural light in the terminal – it puts on a shimmering, rainbow-hued light show that delights people. Lipski’s collaborator, Jonquil LeMaster, took a latex mold off the actual bark of a Valley Oak, then used it to press the texture into the surface of the sculpture, making it lifelike as well as opulent.  The title, Acorn Steam, is an anagram of Sacramento. 

Flying Garden, by Dennis Oppenheim

Outside the airport, approaching the terminals, several flying “birds” actually look like a mashup of birds and some other mechanical flying creature. These colorful sculptures, made of acrylic, stainless steel and corrugated fiberglass, invite passersby to consider all kinds of flight as they get ready to board a plane.

Samson, by Brian Goggin

Two 23-foot-tall stacks of luggage of varying vintages greet those who wait by Baggage Claim in Terminal A. The stacks, though jumbled, appear to be holding up the ceiling. Travelers who impatiently rush to get to baggage claim, only to wait for their suitcases to appear, can stop and de-stress here, considering the people who may have used these donated suitcases over the decades. 

This is just a sampling. Pieces range from traditional paintings and mosaics to technologically advanced, interactive pieces. Most are located outside of the security gates and are viewable to all. The art in the Sacramento airport, as all public art does, injects some liveliness into a space and gives it a distinct regional identity. Most pieces or installations show some whimsy; many provoke discussion. In a public space that’s usually more conducive to rushing, the artwork invites you to stop, wonder and enjoy. What better function for public art? 

Photos courtesy of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission