Every holiday season, Chattanoogans travel far and wide by plane, train and automobile for a chance to see familiar family faces across the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner table. They endure the trek, whether it takes one hour or 10. The journey, however, doesn't have to be the low point of the holiday getaway - in fact, it can be an outing all its own.
As Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year for roadways and airports, most don't relish the task of navigating the busiest airport in the world - Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - with 92 million passengers flying through its gates last year alone, according to Myrna White, director of marketing and stakeholder engagement.
Hartsfield-Jackson, however, offers a cultural experience that promises to occupy even the longest layover. Its Airport Art Program gives passengers authentic art viewing experiences right inside the concourses. The program is made up of permanent monumental structures, but it's the rotating exhibits that catch passengers off guard and enliven the terminals.
"The rotating exhibits give a dynamic element to the airport environment," says Special Programs Manager David Vogt. "From a philosophical standpoint, we feel that the program is serving a wonderful mission of bringing high-quality art to people who might not go to museums."
The art Vogt refers to includes sculptures such as "airFIELD," photograph galleries like "Picturing Georgia," and interactive art forms such as "Light Waves: Atlanta." The program even delves into history with "A Walk Through Atlanta" between Concourses Band C, which covers Atlanta's historical people and events, from its ancient native inhabitants to the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement.
Many of the pieces reflect different attributes of the ATL itself, while others reach out into other cultures, such as the sculpture series from Zimbabwe, "A Tradition in Stone."
Of course, northern-bound passengers who spend their layover in the Nashville International Airport also have plenty of ways to keep their eyes and ears occupied. Nashville's Arts at the Airport program possesses a permanent collection of art on site while also rotating exhibits in and out for the viewing pleasure of its passengers. "We try to provide the Nashville Airport experience - a great experience," says Emily Richard, assistant vice president of the airport's Strategic Communications and External Affairs.
The airport displays art in mediums ranging from blown glass to photography to intricate sculptures that are placed on all the concourses as well as in the areas open to the public. "Often, we are the only part of town people see," she adds.
As the international airport of Music City, Richard says live music is also an integral component of the Arts at the Airport program. Artists of all genres set up on stages throughout the airport to entertain passengers who are waiting for their departing flights. "Passengers should take advantage of free art exhibits, enjoy the live music," Richard says. "It's definitely something that makes the travel experience a lot better."