Hope and Resilience | 10 artworks, commissioned during pandemic, unveiled by Houston Airports

“Not only does art help to create a sense of place in our terminals,” said Mario Diaz, Director of Aviation for Houston Airports. “Art also provides an unexpected connection that has the power to influence each passenger long after they’re left our airports.” 

December 21, 2022

When travelers walk through George Bush Intercontinental Airport or William P. Hobby Airport, the hope is they’ll see Houston.

The hope is, they’ll feel Houston. 

Portraits of the community, a ribbon of LED lights and 240- feet of vibrant walls were carefully and consciously created to detail the best quality of the fourth largest city in the United States – its diversity. 

A total of 10 unique artworks culminate of hard work, vision, and resilience gained during one of the most challenging chapters in world history.  

In June 2020, with the world at a standstill, the City of Houston was innovating opportunities to give hope to the creative community. People needed hope. Three months into the global COVID-19 pandemic, the ill effects of lockdowns and protective measures began to surface. 

Art was among the industries that were immediately and severely affected. 

The City of Houston began relief efforts. 

The Civic Art Program of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, MOCA, called for qualified artists to design, fabricate and install 10 major permanent works at Bush and Hobby airports. The City of Houston and Houston Airports teamed to fund the art investment.   

The goal for the City of Houston was twofold. The 10 commissions would allow the city to actively support the creative community in the infancy of the COVID-19 pandemic and improve both the equity and representation of artists to reflect Houston and Texas.  

“During a time of uncertainty the City of Houston offered hope and support,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “This is an unprecedented investment from our Civic Art Program and quite timely as interest and demand for public art has only increased.”  

By August 2020, 1,051 applications were submitted. Among the applicants chosen was Xavier Schipani. His idea for a mural composed of diverse figures designed in cool hues of blue for the IAH Terminal B Skyway dazzled the selection panel.  

Artist William Canning was selected to suspend nearly three dozen inflated steel cloud forms above HOU gate 50. His design encourages travelers to look up into the painted, pearlized clouds well before travelers take flight. 

The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, UNESCO, officially endorses Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee’s immersive installation in an IAH Connector Tunnel. A mural stretching the entire length of the tunnel, 240- feet, is inspired by a coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico. Custom carpet, lighting and a social media filter transport travelers to the Flower Garden Banks Marine National Sanctuary.  


Artists began working on their commissions in August 2021 with eight of 10 commissions completed in early December 2022. At that time, COVID-19 vaccines became widely available in the U.S., workers returned to traditional office environments and mandatory federal mask mandates were lifted.  
“We find ourselves now in a world that understands, more deeply, what art and artists bring to our lives and to our collective well-being,” said Turner. “Together, these commissions represent and demonstrate inspired work from a diverse group of artists, mediums and subject matter.”  

The 2,500 reflective crystal glass spheres embedded in a monumental sculpture catch the light and the attention of travelers as they enter a security screening area at Hobby Airport. If travelers study the free-standing piece, they’ll notice it is formed in the shape of a wing. 

Animalis Works, inspired by the history of flight, sculpted the work which has become a symbol of Houston Airports Art program reaching new heights.  

“Art is inspiring,” said Mario Diaz, Director of Aviation for Houston Airports. “With the unveiling of these 10 commissioned pieces, I’m proud to say that Houston Airports is inspiring, too.”  

Houston Airports Arts program is receiving national and international acclaim.  

In 2021, with support from MOCA, Houston Airports made its largest one-time art acquisition of 74 pieces created by Texas artists. 

Earlier this year, Houston Airports began an Artist-in-Residence program. The program, which invites two local artists to create works inside Bush and Hobby airports, is the first of its kind in Texas.  

“Not only does art help to create a sense of place in our terminals,” said Diaz, “art also provides an unexpected connection that has the power to influence each passenger long after they’re left our airports.”  

The 10 commissioned artworks are on permanent display at Bush and Hobby airports.   

An opportunity born in a time of uncertainty now serves as a touchstone of hope and resilience.  


IAH Terminal A Ticketing Lobby – 4 oversized portraits of community members by Houston artist Colby Deal  

IAH Terminal B Skyway -  Illuminated digital installation by Houston art team Input Output  

IAH Terminal B Skyway – 20-foot high mural by Austin-based artist Xavier Schipani  

IAH Terminal C Skyway – 24-foot high abstracted tree by Houston artist Pete Hite 

IAH Terminal D Connector Tunnel – 240-foot long immersive art tunnel by Houston-based artist Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee 

Houston Airports Administration Building – Vivid burst of color by Austin artist Melissa Borrell 

HOU at Gate 1 – 10-foot high, 30-foot wide triptych mural by San Antonio-based painter Cruz Ortiz 

HOU at Gate 30 – Photographic installation of 33 acrylic panels by San Antonio art team R, R and R

HOU at Gate 50 – Floating cloud installation by Lubbock-based sculptor William Cannings 

HOU Security Checkpoint – Soaring steel and crystal sculpture by Austin-based artist Animalis Works 

Download Hi-Res images and video of the 10 commissioned artworks here

Origin of Funding | Funds for the permanent work of public arts at Houston's airports were allocated by a City of Houston ordinance which mandates that 1.75% of qualified and applicable Capital Improvement Project dollars be set aside for civic art. These funds are generated by the Houston Airport's Enterprise Fund – a non-taxpayer, self-sustaining fund of the City. Under contract and in partnership with MOCA, Houston Arts Alliance administers these city-funded public opportunities to acquire and conserve the City of Houston's public art pieces. 

Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs | The City of Houston Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs, MOCA, guides the City's cultural investments with policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs in the community, attract visitors and leverage private investment. Learn more at www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs.

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