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Phoenix Airport Museum Showcases ‘What Makes Us Human’

By Todd R. Berger

Phoenix Airport Museum
Phoenix Airport Museum’s “Diversity in the Desert” exhibit at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport || Courtesy of Phoenix Airport Museum

Arizona’s Phoenix Airport Museum at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has a robust exhibition program that showcases the state’s artistic and cultural heritage. With some 40 display areas in the airport and public spaces in Terminal 4 (and other areas) that you do not need a plane ticket to see, the museum reaches a wide audience. “We get a lot of people who come to the airport just to view art,” says Gary Martelli, Phoenix Airport Museum director.

“Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is basically the front door to our city and often to our state,” he notes. “And by having art and culture that focuses on Arizona artists and organizations, it shows visitors and travelers that culture is very important to our city, and it’s also a great diversion for people experiencing stress while traveling. … There’s an opportunity for travelers to learn about art and culture, which I think is a very humanizing experience, and it plays to a lot of what makes us human.”

The Phoenix Airport Museum is one of the largest and oldest airport art programs in the country. The city of Phoenix owns the airport and funds exhibitions out of operational funds.

“With our programming, we think of art and culture in a very broad sense,” Martelli explains. “We have done everything from motorcycles to miniature engines to fine art jewelry to contemporary ceramics. We also want to go beyond the idea that art in Arizona is just pretty sunsets and Kokopelli figures.”

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