When Seattle-based artist Fumi Amano landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) 10 years ago, she knew it was the start of something new. She had moved from Aichi, Japan to the United States to pursue an MFA and was excited to learn about her new home.
“The excitement I felt at the airport was so special and I think a lot of people use the airport as part of a transition or the beginning of a new chapter. It’s a chance to go back home or start something new in a new place.”
Amano channels this inspiration as he works on the concept for his latest piece, a planned sculpture in SEA’s C Concourse. Amano and artist Crystal Worl were selected to create public art installations for the C Concourse Expansion project as part of a unique collaboration with two leading cultural institutions in the Pacific Northwest. These public art commissions are attached to a first-of-its-kind residency program made possible through a new partnership between SEA Airport and two iconic glass art organizations – the Pilchuck Glass School and the Museum of Glass. The Pilchuck residency is designed for artists to explore potential ideas; The Museum of Glass residency is designed to transform these ideas into a final product that will be exhibited at the airport.
This summer, Amano completed her two-week residency at Pilchuk and will complete a second five-day residency at the Museum of Glass, possibly in 2024. Her finished work will be exhibited at the airport in 2026 with the opening of the new C Concourse. The piece will be seen by travelers as they enjoy views of the airport and the Olympic Mountains on a glass-enclosed observation deck.
Although she is a multidisciplinary artist, Amano said she has been in love with glass for years. She first learned glassmaking as a traditional Japanese craft, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Aichi University of Education and further study of glass at the Glass Art Institute in Toyama City. She later earned a master’s degree in foreign affairs from Virginia Commonwealth University.
“The material is just so beautiful. I really like this transparency and sometimes I use a sheet of glass as a metaphor for an invisible filter between the people and the piece.” she said.
The residency was the perfect opportunity to focus on glass and test the limits of possibilities. She said it has been helpful for the development of her work to create glass artwork with glass artists who deeply understand the material.
“Learning craftsmanship by working with experienced glass artists was very helpful for my inspiration. The glass art community is very open. Glass artists generously share their knowledge with others. I really appreciate the opportunity to experiment with what I would like to try.”
She hopes to create something people have never seen before and provide a new perspective on glass. Because it is so fragile, Amano is also exploring ways to keep both the piece and passersby safe in a highly trafficked public space. One avenue she has explored is using kiln casting – using a mold and a kiln – to make the piece stronger. After the residency, she created more tests and drawings based on what she learned about glass and public art during the residency program. Participating in the airport’s public art tour provided more inspiration.
“This helped me develop ideas for the project as I could see the actual airport traffic and the interaction between passengers and public art. I hope to gain a deep understanding of public glass art and glass art culture in Seattle to create something for travelers to enjoy before they travel.”
Vulnerability as inspiration
Amano finds artistic inspiration from her experiences around topics such as age, feminism, and problems communicating with others. Her artist statement on her website reads “Through my art, I would like to express the reality of being marginalized in this country. I challenge the tradition of the ‘silent Asian woman’ to reveal the complexities that lie beneath the surface of the superficial ‘dream’ of being an Asian woman.”
With the piece she is creating for the airport, she hopes to inspire excitement for travel. “I hope the piece empowers travelers to feel more welcome and also excited about traveling from one place to another.”
Amano said the residency partnership is important because it increases access for artists, connecting them with studio equipment, other artists and institutions like Pilchuk and the Museum of Glass. “That relationship is such an important part for artists to develop their practice,” she said.