14:29 PM

Unexpected and original, TPA unveils two new public works of art

The newly completed SkyCenter Atrium, in many ways, is an unexpected delight.

Featuring four stories of glass windows, vast open spaces and clean, modernist architecture, the building is visually striking and breathtaking in its scale. Now, it also serves as a perfect canvas for two brilliant sculptures from world-renowned artists Soo Sunny Park and Jason Hackenwerth.

The new public works, commissioned by TPA as part of the Airport’s Master Plan expansion, illuminate the space with vibrant colors and dynamic, abstract shapes that challenge the mind and help to transport you away from the day-to-day grind.

The building itself is a waypoint on a traveler’s journey. These two works practically demand that one stops to consider them, offering up a serene moment of surprise and delight.

“That’s precisely how I like to talk about my work and precisely how I believe the function of art should impact us,” said Hackenwerth, a St. Pete-based artist and professor at Eckerd College who is widely known for his work with latex balloons. “I believe that we as humans connect with one another and our surroundings most profoundly when we let go of our compulsive thinking. That’s precisely what good art helps us to do: to drop all of that mental baggage and connect with the moment.”

Hackenwerth’s piece, entitled Cove, is a translucent, moving mobile inspired by a coral reef that hangs adjacent to the Atrium’s fourth floor.

“What was most important to me is that the work could move, rotate and change,” he said. “Each time a person engages it, it will change. In my mind, all the pieces needed to move.”

Hackenwerth is most known for his work with balloons, but, for this installation, opted to use a combination of stainless steel metal rods draped in resin-coated fabric. This material helps achieve some of the same aesthetic of the other medium, while giving added permanence.

Park’s work, which is currently untitled, hangs prominently in the center of the Atrium’s great open space, which measures approximately 63 feet from floor to ceiling. The reflective and translucent sculpture spans about 20 feet and has a soft, undulating quality that traces back to the rolling hills of Vermont, where Park lives.

The form has a very elevated feel; it’s effortless, moving in the air, flowing,” said Park. “It has the movement of air lifting the piece.”

Park, who also teaches at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., said the piece was designed to play with light and shadows, transforming and evolving throughout the day.

“I think about the space and how viewers become participants, engaging and weaving through the work,” she said. “In that way, the piece becomes more of an environment rather than an object.”

For both Park and Hackenwerth, this is the first permanent piece in an airport, and both were thrilled to help enhance the guest experience. The importance of art in public spaces is critical, they said.

“I really love public art because, whether you notice or not, it’s there in your everyday life,” Park said. “I think that it brings everybody together. You don’t have to feel like you’re an art lover or gallery goer – it’s just there and part of everyday life.”

“It brings joy and some sort of spark – a time to take a pause.”