Flying High With the Arts at Miami International Airport

Written By Josie Gulliksen
December 29, 2015 at 1:49 PM

Flying High With the Arts at Miami International Airport

Wanting to provide a cultural outlet to travelers passing through Miami International Airport, Yolanda Sanchez, director of Airport Fine Arts & Cultural Affairs, was inspired to create a rotating exhibition program at the airport in 1995.

Her inspiration came when she realized that this was the wave of the future and at the time, the only such program in the country was in San Francisco. After this, many airports around the country followed suit and now most of them have these programs.

As the liaison for the Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places program, Sanchez explains that in that program, the art is integrated into the architecture and is permanent. At the airport, the exhibits might last three or four months.

“We started out with one designated gallery and have grown to our current five galleries. We’ve also incorporated community, video, and performance programs, it has really grown tremendously,” she said.

In addition to the gallery spaces, they have site-specific projects as well that are independent from Art in Public Places. An example is the large-scale, pink and red Peace & Love wall collage. “We also have a handmade, fine arts, children’s and photography gallery, so our offerings are really extensive,” Sanchez said.

How they choose which artists to display is determined by those who submit a proposal online via their Website. They have already made their selections for the next year and a half. However, there are times when spaces are available around the airport so that’s when they work with the advertising department to ask for that space for an artist.

“It’s a fluid program and we have a great relationship with the advertising department,” she said.

As far as performances, they’ve featured ballet and modern dancers, Afro-Cuban drummers, the Florida Grand Opera, pantomime, and pop-up cinema featuring classic and silent films. These were part of the Random Acts of Culture program funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“Peace & Love” by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt. Photo courtesy of Miami International Airport

Collaborations are a large part of their effort, including displaying works by students from DASH (Design and Architecture Senior High) and the Early Childhood Initiative, a program started by former Miami Herald Publisher David Lawrence, Jr. when space is available.

One of their most recent projects was initiating a video wall, where they are currently showcasing Miami visual artists at work creating a portrait of a particular airport employee.

Video artists shadow an airport employee during a day at work and then create a short film. A visual artist then watches the video and creates a portrait of the employee. This program was featured at their booth at the Context Art Fair during Art Basel.

“I really like forming these collaborations and partnerships so the airport becomes part of something broader in the community. The airport is the first portal for visitors, to Miami so we want them to realize this is a vibrant, cultural destination,” Sanchez said.

The program will continue to expand in 2016 with a new gallery slated to open featuring pottery, jewelry, and artists’ books. They are also partnering with the Florida Park Service, which host their Centennial celebration next year, by exhibiting photos by Florida-based photographer Clyde Butcher and a video he created specifically to accompany it.

Check out what they’ve got on display throughout the Miami International Airport by visiting


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