18:20 PM

Black History Month: Artist Nneka Jones treats TPA to a live art demo honoring Bessie Coleman

As Tampa International Airport continues its celebration of Black History Month, earlier this week the Airport hosted acclaimed local artist Nneka Jones who wowed passengers by creating a mixed media portrait of Black aviation pioneer Bessie Coleman. The event took place Wednesday, February 22, from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. on Level 3 of the Main Terminal.  

Passengers and TPA visitors were able to watch as Jones used embroidery and paint to help create the unique piece honoring Coleman, the first African American to officially earn a pilot’s license.

Nneka 3This portrait will be created using fiber, specifically thread, to capture one of the very few colored portraits of Bessie Coleman,” Jones said before beginning the project. “All stitches will be completed by hand, without the use of a machine.”

With this being one of Tampa International Airport's busiest times of year, Jones said was hoping passengers would take the time to appreciate the power of public art and develop a new appreciation for contemporary fiber art. 

“My portraits differ from the average artist, requiring a ‘second look’ and slowing down to analyze and understand that the texture, colors and depth are all created by thousands of hand stitches,” said Jones.


TPA Marketing Manager Kelly Figley, who oversees the Airport's Public Art Program, said the Airport was excited to welcome Nneka Jones, whose work has been featured in Time Magazine and across the globe. “We’re really honored she's agreed to share her talents with Airport visitors," said Figley.

This year, throughout the month of February, Tampa International Airport is honoring Black history by recognizing African American contributions to art and music.  Each Wednesday in February, the Airport is featuring live music as part of our TPA Jazz Series. Originating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries among Black communities in New Orleans, jazz has become an important and influential genre that is important to our country’s musical landscape.

The Airport also teamed up with Hillsborough County Public Schools to showcase selections from this year’s L.E.A.D. Student Art Exhibition. Students in third through twelfth grade were asked to submit artwork featuring a person, event or experience in Black American history that had an impact on their life. Selected pieces are currently on display on Level 2 of the Main Terminal around the corner from the United Airlines ticketing counters.

Finally, students from Tampa’s Gaither and Alonso high schools participating in the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project will visit TPA at the end of the month to learn more about the wide variety of careers available in aviation. Students will get to meet TPA employees on the job and learn firsthand about some amazing careers.



TPA Black History Heroes of Aviation