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IU professorís immigrant portraits adorn new Indianapolis International Airport

When the new Indianapolis International Airport hosted its public open house earlier this month (Oct. 11 and 12 at 7800 Col. H. Weir Cook Memorial Drive), visitors became familiar with the layout of the new building -- and were among the first to preview the airport's specially commissioned artwork. The new airport art includes a series of portraits of recent immigrants in Indiana, photographs by award-winning photographer Jeff Wolin, Indiana University's Ruth N. Halls Professor of Photography.

For the airport project and an accompanying book, Wolin made portraits of immigrants from around the world who now call central Indiana home. The photographs are accompanied by text about what motivated each individual to become an American, and some include personal snapshots from the subjects' home countries. Wolin calls the project "the story of the American dream in the 21st century."

Jeff Wolin

Jeff Wolin

Wolin was the first artist selected to display his work in the airport's "rotating gallery space" between the ticket counters and the atrium. Sixteen of the 30 photographs he took for his book of immigrant portraits will be on display at the airport for about six months from the time of the airport's official opening, scheduled for Nov. 12 (Nov. 11 for departing passengers).

Wolin said a recurring theme among the people he interviewed for the book -- titled New Faces at the Crossroads: The World in Central Indiana -- was that many feel America symbolizes freedom and a general "can-do" attitude. "A lot of them mentioned the economic freedom and religious freedom here," Wolin said.

"The other thing that comes out is the downside: No one is in your face telling you what to do, but on the other hand, you don't know your neighbors." He made reference to Augustine Bihani, who misses the sense of community back home in Chad -- and is critical of Americans' lack of community -- but is happy there is no war here. "She said she can go to the market here and not get shot," Wolin said.

By November, 12 of Wolin's 24-by-40-inch immigrant photographs will be on display in the airport's public space near the ticket counters, while four 17-by-27-inch prints will be displayed within the secured area in which travelers board their planes. While the airport hopes to display a different artist's work in the rotating space every six months, it has purchased Wolin's immigrant portraits, so his photographs will live on somewhere in the new terminal.

Wolin said New Faces at the Crossroads (published Indiana University Press, co-published with the International Center of Indianapolis, funded in part by Eli Lilly) is meant to highlight a range of immigrant experiences that approximate the ethnic balance of immigrants to Indiana.

"I worked with the International Center to identify individuals with stories that are somewhat representative of some of the demographics: immigrants from Western Europe, China, Canada, Mexico, Africa . . . we weren't slavish to the breakdown, but we paid attention to it. We knew there were a lot of great stories of people coming to America," Wolin said.

Work of Jeffrey Wolin

Portrait of Kenneth Beache, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago who now calls Indianapolis home, by IU Professor Jeff Wolin. The portrait is one of 16 that will be displayed in the new Indianapolis International Airport.

Visitors to the airport open house saw a sampling of Wolin's immigrant photos, including a portrait of Kenneth Beache, who came to the United States in 1984 from Trinidad and Tobago and is now an architect and vice president of Shrewsberry & Associates in Indianapolis.

In the text that accompanies his photograph, Beache says: "I would be the first to admit that foreign blacks have definitely benefited from the price paid by American blacks for civil rights. We've come after they fought the fight. The doors have been cracked open, and we've pushed them wider."

The 16 artists commissioned to produce permanent pieces for the airport include six Indiana artists:

• Lynn Basa, a native of Bloomington and IU graduate who currently lives in Chicago, who has designed a floor-based artwork for Civic Plaza, the main public area of the terminal;

• Arlon Bayliss and Mary Jo Kramb Bayliss of Anderson, who will create artwork incorporating a glass wall in a security screening checkpoint;

• Dale Enochs, a sculptor and IU graduate from Bloomington, who will carve a pair of wall relief sculptures out of limestone for the ticket hall;

• James Wille Faust of Indianapolis, who graduated from IUPUI's Herron School of Art and Design, who will create a combination painting and sculpture for the main terminal escalator;

• Tom Torluemke of Hammond, who has designed two floor-based "murals" for the plazas that join the concourses to the main terminal; and

• Nhat Tran, an Indianapolis-based painter and graduate of IUPUI's Herron School of Art and Design, who will use the technique known as urushi (Asian lacquer painting) to create an abstract mural for one of the security screening checkpoints.

In addition, Greg Hull, who teaches at Herron, has a kinetic piece in the atrium of the parking garage, and Brian McCutcheon, an adjunct faculty member at Herron, has a temporary (two-year) sculpture in the North Garden.

For his part, Wolin hopes the images will give airport visitors momentary pause for reflection during their travels. He also hopes the images call attention to the International Center of Indianapolis, a nonprofit that assists war refugees, provides translation and facilitates communication, facilitates opportunities for citizen diplomacy and international exchange, and helps enhance local understanding of diverse cultures.

"It's a great organization that does a lot of work to help immigrants that is not very visible. I hope the book and this exhibition help people become more aware of it," he said.

For more information about Wolin's book, New Faces at the Crossroads: The World in Central Indiana, see: <> .

For more information about the International Center of Indianapolis, see

Directions to the new Indianapolis International Airport

Take I-70 west to Exit 68, which is the first exit west of I-465. Watch for signs directing you to the parking garage. The new address is 7800 Col. H. Weir Cook Memorial Drive.

Please visit and click on "we're moving" for new airport information. Under "maps and directions" is an interstate map. Online map assistance (such as Google, Mapquest, Yahoo), may not be updated to direct you appropriately at this time.