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Blue Skies Over Tampa:
Economy Parking Garage, Tampa Florida


Copyright © 2005 Nancy Gutkin O'Neil
Please click to see additional images of project


Lobby wall at Economy Parking Garage, Tampa International Airport, Tampa, FL
Tampa International Airport Public Art Program, Hillsborough County Aviation Authority
2005

Tampa International Airport, considered to be "America's Favorite Airport", strives to provide the Tampa Bay area with world class transportation. The airport currently serves 16 million passengers annually, with 100,000 visitors each day. The new Economy Parking Garage is a six-level garage designed to accommodate 5,500 vehicles. Travelers park their cars and take the elevator to the lobby where they wait for the shuttle bus to the main terminal. The elevator lobby artwork was required to create "excitement and interest" and to have "broad public appeal".

"Blue Skies Over Tampa" is an illuminated glass collage consisting of seven wall-mounted lightboxes. Each lightbox features a beautiful photographic skyscape across the top, and a panoramic photo of Tampa across the bottom, hence the name of the piece. In between and overlapping the skyscape and the view of the city is a layered and woven design filled with imagery relating to the Tampa Bay area.

The piece operates on two levels. It is both didactic and abstract. The story-telling is done through historic photographs, maps and documents that are silkscreened and fired into colored glass, along with handpainted animals and plants from the Tampa Bay area. The abstraction resides in the more ethereal nature of the cloud structures, in the use of coarse and fine textures, and in the bold graphics contrasted with painterly details, as aesthetic components of the design. Although there are seven separate lightboxes the design has a continuous flow, with color, shapes and patterns that rhythmically move from one panel to the next. This calming, horizontal movement is amplified by the wide panoramic views of the city and by the effect of the blue and white skyscapes that continue across the entire project.

This is a very labor intensive piece. Every piece of glass, after being cut, was then hand worked with some form of surface treatment. The photos, sheet music, maps and line drawings are silk-screened and fired into the mouthblown colored glass. The details and shading on the plants and animals are handpainted and fired, using glass-painting techniques that date back to the Middle Ages. The clouds are sandblasted into layered mouthblown glass, working from original photos by a Tampa area photographer, David Lawrence.

The panels were assembled using zinc calme and copper foil. Please note that even the custom-made wooden boxes have been silkscreened with the ancient map designs. I was assisted with this project by my husband/partner, James O'Neil.

Project photos by Stephen Traves