Ford airport unveils new mural

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A new, 80-foot mural by Reb Roberts is on display inside the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

The mural, called “Chickens Don’t Fly Too Much,” is painted in bold colors with repeating patterns and stylized characters of chickens, bluebirds and other birds, dogs, trucks and a sun that welcomes or bids farewell to travelers on the ramp after the security checkpoint that leads to Concourse A.

The mural is the second in a series of installations courtesy of a grant from the Frey Foundation. The series is a part of the airport’s $52.3 million Gateway Transformation project that is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. The first mural is called “The Great Blue,” which was completed in March by Nick Nortier and Kyle DeGroff. It features a blue heron on a Michigan waterway.

“I am deeply honored to have been selected for this opportunity,” Roberts said. “For the past decade, it’s been a dream of mine to have work displayed at Ford Airport, and I appreciate the Frey Foundation’s commitment to public art through its continued support of West Michigan artists.

“West Michigan wants to be a destination for art, and the airport is the gateway to our community. To have a venue to do artwork for people who are coming and going from around the globe is really an open window for an artist.”

Roberts is a self-taught artist who has artworks in galleries, private collections and public spaces. For 18 years, he and his wife, Carmella Loftis, ran Sanctuary Folk Art in the Heartside district of downtown Grand Rapids, selling his works and those of the men and women experiencing homelessness in the community.

“As the Gateway Transformation project prepares to wrap up, the addition of public art seems like the perfect way to celebrate its successful conclusion,” said Holly Johnson, president of the Frey Foundation. “We are honored to support the work of Reb Roberts, whose mural speaks to the true nature of travel and the airport’s ability to make connections beyond West Michigan.

“Public art enables us to share what makes our community distinctive and recognizable with the rest of the world. We are delighted to be able to showcase talented artists like Reb Roberts and share his work with all who visit the airport.”

The $52.3 million Gateway Transformation project kicked off in 2015 with multiple phases of improvements, including upgrades to airline ticket counters and baggage service offices, baggage claim, curbside and other “front of the house” areas. The airport added 59,000 square feet of space, relocated TSA screening equipment, added Prospect Hill as a new restaurant and full-service bar, upgraded lighting, enhanced signage and more remodeling projects. In addition to state and federal grants, the project received more than $17 million of contributions from local businesses.

“We are grateful for the generosity of the Frey Foundation and the gift of this incredible public artwork, which truly puts the finishing touches on our Gateway Transformation,” Ford airport President and CEO Tory Richardson said. “We have received many wonderful comments from guests, visitors and team members alike who appreciate being able to connect with original works of art from West Michigan artists. We truly appreciate our partnership with these artists and with the Frey Foundation.”

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