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An Art Project at LaGuardia Airport Delivers Short Stories to Travelers’ Phones

Lexie Smith and Gideon Jacobs are writing short stories for travelers taking off from LaGuardia Airport, the first project in a new artist residency for the Marine Air Terminal.

Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport (photo by AtDisneyAgain, via Wikimedia)

Through June 30, passengers traveling from LaGuardia Airport’s Marine Air Terminal (Terminal A) can visit the Landing Pages kiosk for a story. Each of these compact tales is written by Lexie Smith and Gideon Jacobs over the length of a traveler’s flight, and delivered to their phone upon landing.

Lexie Smith and Gideon Jacobs (courtesy the artists)

“To drop a story in someone’s inbox that could potentially remove the reader from the anxiety of travel for a moment is part of the motivation behind writing them,” Smith told Hyperallergic. “The airport is also just a ripe ecosystem for observing the human experience. It’s the crossroads for people who might otherwise never be in the same space.”

Landing Pages is the first project from the ArtPort Residency, a new program of the Queens Council on the Arts in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ). The initiative, as covered by Claire Voon for Hyperallergic, invites Queens-based artists to create three-month-long public art projects in the rotunda of the Marine Air Terminal. The Art Deco terminal, with its massive WPA-era mural by James Brooks, is New York City’s most beautiful place for an airline departure, and its artistic history as well as the daily foot traffic inspired the ArtPort projects. Following Smith and Jacobs, Sandra Lopez-Monsalve will launch a sonic exploration in July that incorporates traveler interviews. Then in October, Sherwin Banfield will begin his studies of the historic airport and its stream of visitors for sculpted murals. Finally in January, Brian Soliwoda will take over with the building of a Clipper sailing ship from plant materials and papier-mâché, a reference to the original use of the terminal for seaplanes.

Smith and Jacobs began Landing Pages in May, and you can read their archived stories on the project’s website. These are available to take away in hard copy at the kiosk which doubles as their workspace. Passengers can pick up a deli-style ticket and include their number or email for delivery. Not surprisingly, many of their stories, which take the form of fiction, poetry, and illustration, involve travel in their narratives, whether physical or emotional. In one for a Delta Airlines passenger, a meditative scene follows a woman as she sits on her front porch and watches an airplane pass overhead; in another for an Alaska Airlines passenger, a kid on the first day of spring has an adventure that takes him to the top of a telephone pole. The duration of a flight influences the word count of a piece, as every story needs to be ready by the time the person lands and takes their phone out of airplane mode.

The Landing Pages kiosk (courtesy the artists)

“Forcing yourself to write something out of nothing can induce a state of creative vigilance,” Jacobs said. “With a blank page in front of you and a deadline looming, you end up watching your mind for the slightest movement, for any tiny opening that will likely take you absolutely nowhere, but also just might take you to somewhere you want to go.”

The structural adaptability of fiction, and its reflection of the act of traveling in its narrative structures, made it a harmonious medium for their project. “Every trip on an airplane embodies a traditional form of storytelling,” Smith stated. It has a beginning, middle, and end at landing. She added that “airline travel is stressful, hurried, and rarely are the surprises welcome ones.” The ArtPort initiative aims to offer some unexpected joy to travelers as they navigate these journeys.

Landing Pages ticket (courtesy the artists)

Landing Pages is at the Marine Air Terminal (Terminal A) of LaGuardia Airport in Queens through June 30.

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