In the summer of 2012, the large-scale mural of Charles Lindbergh, which colored the wall of the San Diego International Airport’s commuter terminal for years, was removed. According to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, the piece was beyond restoration and repair.
Aside from a few mentions on local television news and an article in U-T San Diego—in which 90 percent of those polled said the mural should go back up and 43 commenters largely bemoaned the loss of what many called an iconic piece of public art—not too many folks seemed to notice or really care. The artist who painted the mural, John Whalen, wasn't happy about its loss, but, otherwise, the airport didn't get much in the way of public backlash.
“It was odd that more people didn’t notice,” said Constance White, art program manager at the airport. “I mean, some people did notice.... But we have not heard very much recourse about that…. It went away very quietly.”
In the next few weeks, a new mural will take Lindbergh’s place. The airport released a request for proposals last summer and, after vetting the submissions, a committee chose WERC, a well-known graffiti artist, muralist and painter who lived in San Diego in 2010 before moving on to bigger cities with more thriving art scenes.
Since the commuter terminal is scheduled to be demolished in the somewhat distant future, the airport authority's approach for replacing the mural will allow artists to install temporary works over the next few years. Instead of commissioning WERC to paint a piece directly on the building, the artist is submitting digital files that will be printed on vinyl and installed on billboard-like structures that’ll be mounted to the building either before year’s end or early in 2014.
The method is based on the highly successful Murals of La Jolla project, which, in the last year alone, has mounted five new murals using the technique.
“It allows more artists the opportunity to have their work seen,” White said. “The Murals of La Jolla project showed that the method is tried and true and the public has had a positive response to it, I think because it’s fun and different.”
WERC will install a series of three artworks on the commuter terminal's walls over the next two years. The first in his series is titled “SAN,” after the code for the San Diego International Airport. WERC describes the piece as very graphical, combining both hand-drawn and photographic references inspired by the early imaginings and beginnings of flight and industrialization. After his series is complete, another artist will be given the chance to display a temporary mural.
“I think people will like it,” White said. “I hope people will like it—it’s different than what we have here.”