PHX Sky Train Public Art Project Is Ambitious but Underwhelming

Categories: Visual Art

Katrina Montgomery
Tailplane Patterns by Fausto Fernandez
The city of Phoenix threw down some serious cash for the PHX Sky Train. But that money wasn't spent on train tech and architecture alone. You might not know it at first glance, but there was a fat budget for the public art projects scattered across the different stations and walkways.

Generally speaking, we're on board with any program that provides funding to local artists to do their thang. But we wanted to get the full scoop and see whether it's worth taking a special trip to check out this truly massive public art project at Sky Harbor.

See also
Calle 16 Mural Project Heads to Barrio Cafe at Sky Harbor International Airport
Group Photography Exhibition "What Are We Doing Here?" Opens at Modified Arts July 19

Katrina Montgomery
Journey Through Nature by Daniel Martin Diaz
Four of the six projects are terrazzo floor designs by artists Anne Coe, Daniel Martin Diaz, Fausto Fernandez, and Daniel Mayer. The vibrant use of color looks pretty cool, and the organic designs provide nice contrast to the architecture of the stations.

But let's be real. It's a floor.

"I sort of joke about bringing in cleaning rags to get rid of the scuff marks, but frankly the floor is what it is. And there are lots of people rushing across it dragging suitcases on their way to some adventure," artist Anne Coe says. "It is a pleasure to see my work used and enjoyed."

Katrina Montgomery
Topo Magic by Anne Coe
The artists' intentions do add some level of interest to the work. Coe, for instance, was inspired by hiking and topographical maps. Her project focused on "the view of Phoenix and the canal systems when the water was used for crops and not subdivisions." She says point of view was especially important working in such a huge scale.

We can tell the artists all put genuine thought into their projects. And the work that was done by both artists and engineers to install the pieces is incredibly impressive. (Advance Terrazzo, the Phoenix firm in charge of the install, even won a national award).

But when we saw the work in person, we just felt pretty meh.

Location Info


Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

3400 Sky Harbor Blvd., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

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Sean D. Sweat
Sean D. Sweat

"frankly, we aren't convinced travelers have actually been using [the Sky Train] (despite recent reports to the contrary)." Is that claim, contrarian to the actual data that you point out, even based on anything? Or just a vague, omniscient, highly-journalistic "gut feeling"?

Rosetta Walker
Rosetta Walker

I love the art installations along the light rail and now the sky train

Eric Jacobs
Eric Jacobs

I got to use the sky train for the first time last week. It's great for terminal 4 but the problem is now the airport buses no longer take you to the east economy lot from the other terminals. I flew out of terminal 4 and back into terminal 2. I had to pick up my luggage and ride a bus from terminal 2 to 4 then go up a level and walk all the way back across terminal 4 to the sky train and ride that back to the east economy lot and then back down to the surface again. Quite the workout at 1:00 AM.

Brian Ballard
Brian Ballard

The floors are stunning and very unique. It will not take people long to appreciate them. The sky train is in its infancy and will prove its value and permanence with time.

Troy Farah Faucet
Troy Farah Faucet

Reminds me of the time Rail Lite™ opened and someone at NT complained about the lackluster art (and lack of public restrooms). Maybe Phoenix needs to hire new folks for these things.

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