As travelers head back to Long Beach Airport in the coming months, they’ll not only be greeted by new COVID-19 travel rules, but also by a new art exhibit depicting life in the pandemic.
The exhibit, “We Got This: Art in the Time of the Pandemic”, unveiled Wednesday, is comprised of 20 pieces that were collected from local women artists and shows messages of hope and solidarity that were ubiquitous in 2020. The exhibit is also available to view on the city’s website.
Pieces from the exhibit are on display along construction barriers that separate public areas from ongoing work on the airport’s Phase II Terminal Improvement Program. The art will be on display for at least the next six months, the city said in a statement.
The works range from scenes of nature to paintings of essential workers wearing masks and activities that people turned to to stay active, like roller skating and walking on the beach. An American flag with its stars portion made out of a navy-blue medial mask and a piece titled “Sheltering” showing scenes of 20 different homes sheltering in place are also part of the exhibit.
The title of the exhibit was borrowed from one of the pieces submitted by Nuria Ortiz, who goes by “Ms. Yellow.” Her work shows two women riding birds in opposite directions, one holding a banner saying “I miss you” and the other carrying one that says “We got this.”
“I was trying to show the disconnection that we were currently going through the pandemic has definitely forced us to reevaluate ourselves, our lives, and connections to each other,” Ms. Yellow said. “The piece just shows two people that have sentiments for each other but are forced to be apart.”
Ms. Yellow said that the piece that’s now at the airport was based off a previous work that she completed as part of the Arts Council’s initiative to paint over boarded up businesses last year. One of the bird-riding girls originally appeared on plywood outside a business on Fourth Street.
“It’s kind of surreal,” the artist said. “I travel a lot for work and a lot of times I travel out of Long Beach Airport so it’s kind of cool to see my work up there among all these amazing women.”
Tracy Negrete, who submitted a vibrant painting of a local woman on roller-skates, said she tried to home in on releasing energy and exercising, something that quickly became of the few things that anyone could do during the initial stay-at-home orders.
“I was able to put my skates on in the evening, take my dog out with my mask on and still get some kind of a release,” Negrete said.
Negrete has also worked on murals in Bixby Knolls and Cambodia Town and a number of electrical boxes near Downtown. She said her work typically uses the bright, positive colors shown in her airport piece because public art can have the ability to set the mood for someone walking by.
The focus on women artists for this exhibition is part of the Arts Council’s work with LBSuffrage100, a local group working to ensure women are recognized for their works, to commemorate the anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. All artists in the exhibition were paid $500 through the airport’s cut of the citywide Percent for the Arts Program.
“We are so thankful to Long Beach Airport for partnering with us to commission such a timely exhibit and promote local women artists,” said Griselda Suarez, executive director of the Arts Council for Long Beach. “These artists are proud representatives of our city, and the work portrays the strength our community has shown through this pandemic and hope for the future.”