Artist’s SEA Piece Inspired by Transitions of Travel

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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 her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and was excited to learn about her new home.

“That 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 come back home or start something new in a new location.”



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Fumi Amano and Crystal Worl during their artist residencies at Pilchuck School of Glass.

Amano is channeling that inspiration as she works on the concept for her 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 top Pacific Northwest cultural institutions. 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 entities — Pilchuck Glass School and the Museum of Glass. The Pilchuck residency is designed for the artists to explore potential ideas; the Museum of Glass residency is designed to produce these ideas into a final product that will be displayed at the airport.

This summer, Amano completed her two-week residency at Pilchuck, and will complete a second five-day residency at Museum of Glass, likely in 2024. Her finished piece will be on display at the airport in 2026 with the opening of the new C Concourse. The piece will be seen by travelers as they take in views of the airfield and Olympic Mountains on a lookout deck encased in glass.

Diving into glass

Although she is a multidisciplinary artist, Amano said she’s been in love with the medium of glass for years. Shedecorative first learned glassmaking as a traditional Japanese craft, earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Aichi University of Education and further studying glass at the Toyama City Institute of Glass Art. She later earned her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.

“The material is just so beautiful. I really like that transparency and sometimes I use a sheet of glass as a metaphor of an invisible filter between people and the piece,” she said.

The residency was the perfect opportunity to focus on glass and test the limits of possibility. She said it was helpful to the development of her piece to create glass artwork with glass artists who deeply understand the material.

“Learning craftsmanship by working with experienced glass artists was very helpful in giving me 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 that people have never seen before and provide a new perspective on glass. Because it’s 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 more solid. After the residency, she created more test pieces 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.

“It helped me develop ideas for the project since I could see the actual traffic in the airport and the interaction between passengers and public art. I hope to deeply understand public art with glass and the glass art culture in Seattle to create something to let passengers enjoy before traveling.”

Vulnerability as inspiration

Amano finds artistic inspiration from her lived experiences around topics like age, feminism, and communication issues with others. Her artist statement on her website reads “Through my art, I would like to express the reality of being minoritized in this country. I challenge the tradition of the ‘silent Asian woman’ to reveal the complexities that lie underneath the guise 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 for traveling from one place to another.”

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Opening doors

Amano said the residency partnership is important because it increases access for artists, connecting them with studio equipment, other artists, and institutions like Pilchuck and the Museum of Glass. “That connection is such an important part for artists to develop their practice,” she said.

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