‘World’s Best Airport Art Program’ is also now a 2023 CODAawards People’s Choice Winner
From an immersive experience to soaring sculptures and artists-in-residence, Houston proves airports are not just
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. Hope is where Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee roots her passion for
“I love creating these monumental moments that can transform the viewer into a time, space and energy,” said
Mahimtura Folmsbee, the self-described marine conservation artist who created The Aquarius Art Tunnel. The 240-
foot-long immersive experience includes floor-to-ceiling murals that stretch a connector tunnel inside Bush Airport.
A coral reef off the Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico inspires the Houston-based artist. Custom carpet, lighting and a
social media filter help to transport travelers underwater to the Flower Garden Banks Marine National Sanctuary.
The Aquarius Art Tunnel was voted a 2023 CODAawards People’s Choice Winner in August and is among the reasons
Houston Airports was chosen as the Best Art in the Airport at the 2023 Skytrax World Airport Awards in March. The win is historic. Skytrax unveiled a new award category this year. Houston Airports is the first-ever recipient. The
visual and performing arts program at Houston’s airports beat out art experiences offered by some of the biggest
airports around the world.
“It’s an honor to be the first female South Asian artist in the Houston Airports Public Art Collection,” said Mahimtura
Folmsbee, originally from Mumbai, India. “I am delighted to know my work resonates with the public who share in
my passion for environmental outreach and advocacy.”
The Aquarius Art Tunnel, officially endorsed by UNESCO - the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for
Sustainable Development, is one of 350 permanent works in the airport system’s art collection. Valued at $28
million, Houston Airports has one of the largest public art collections in the aviation industry. The collection,
displayed across three airports, is set to increase to $34 million by late 2024, with the addition of 12 works of art
commissioned for a new international terminal currently under construction at Bush Airport.
“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 can influence each passenger long after they’ve left our
About 54 million passengers visited Houston’s airports in 2022, millions more than some of the most famous
museums in the world. Art is helping Houston make connections well before a passenger boards a plane. Art is
redefining the fourth largest U.S. city as Art City.
“Art is inspiring,” said Liliana Rambo, Chief Terminal Management Officer for Houston Airports. Rambo is a driving
force behind the expansion of the airport system’s arts program. “I’m proud to say that Houston Airports is
Visual and performing art provides inspiration inside airport terminals.
More than 75 of Houston’s most accomplished professional musicians serenade passengers with bossa nova, jazz or
classical melodies through the Harmony in the Air Program. “Your music lifted my spirits,” wrote Janice Haddy
during a layover at Hobby Airport. “For me, it was pure exhilaration. Your music was a special gift to me.”
Passengers like Haddy unexpectedly find themselves engaging with artists throughout Houston’s airports. The
airport system has tapped local artists to serve as ‘Art Ambassadors’ during peak travel periods, like Spring Break or
the Labor Day holiday. The ambassador invites passengers to create their own art using simple techniques. Children
have made last-minute Mother’s Day cards before a flight home; nervous travelers are distracted by vibrant colors
and finger paint.
Local visual artists are invited to work inside Bush and Hobby airports for three months as part of the Houston
Airports Artist in Residence Program. It’s the only program of its kind active in a U.S. airport today.
“We truly provide a great variety of art through a meaningful and memorable experience,” said DuLaney. As Curator
of Public Art, DuLaney, an artist himself, has cultivated partnerships with local museums, the Houston Livestock
Show and Rodeo and NASA. In fact, NASA spacesuits are now on display at Hobby Airport, which is less than 10 miles
from Johnson Space Center.
“Not only do the arts create a sense of place in our terminals,” said Alton DuLaney, Curator of Public Art for Houston
Airports, “our award-winning art collection creates a colorful mosaic that is pure magic and representative of
Houston and Texas.”
The Houston Airports Art Collection is representative by design.
In January 2023, one of the busiest airport systems in the country debuted 10 unique artworks commissioned during
the first months of the pandemic. The call for art provided hope to the regional creative community at a time when
the world needed it. Xavier Schipani, an Austin-based artist who uses his voice and talent for trans-activism, created
a mural composed of diverse figures designed in cool hues of blue. Lubbock-based sculptor William Canning
suspended nearly three dozen inflated steel cloud forms above the gates at Hobby Airport. Thousands of reflective
crystal spheres embedded in a towering sculpture by the artist collective Animalis Works catch the light and the
attention of travelers as they enter a TSA security screening area. Also dazzling airport guests, the purchase of 74
permanent pieces of art, representing the single-largest acquisition of art in the history of Houston Airports.
DuLaney believes art will always be an essential part of our society because the medium can mend gaps and spark
conversation between groups of people, especially in a microcosm like an airport. “Many passengers never leave our
airports, instead transferring to another flight and departing for their final destination,” said DuLaney, “making this
exposure to our award-winning Public Art Program the only view of the rich culture and dynamic talent that defines