It turns out artists have no trouble finding inspiration when they’re designing sculptures for an airport terminal.

Columbia artist Chris Morrey and Denver sculptor David Griggs have been selected to create artwork for the terminal, which will soon be under construction at Columbia Regional Airport.

Morrey, who won the regional artist’s commission, will sculpt two rings for a work he calls “Returning.” Griggs, who won the larger national artist’s commission, will create “Columbia Crossing,” which will be suspended over the main hall of the terminal.

The Columbia City Council last Monday approved the commissions as part of the Percent for Art program. Established in 1997, the program allows for 1% of the cost of new city construction or renovation projects with a budget of $1 million or more to be used for site-specific art.

The overall budget for the airport terminal art is $188,870. Griggs will get $135,500 of that, or 90%, while Morrey will get 10%, or $15,050.

Chris Morrey’s “Returning”

Morrey is a student services coordinator in MU’s School of Visual Studies and operates Dogwood, a studio space in the North Village Arts District that houses up to seven artists and offers monthly exhibits of local art.

His airport terminal work, “Returning”, was inspired by “the cyclical nature of days, seasons and years, and resonates with concepts of leaving, returning and repetition,” according to the proposal he provided the city.

“Returning” will be a pair of large oval rings, each about 5-by-6 feet, and will feature different detailed shapes and surfaces, as well as contrasting colors. Morrey wrote that they’ll have staggered surfaces, like a topographical map or wood grain, and metallic finishes. Their shapes “are designed to be reminiscent of planets, suns and other celestial bodies.”

The rings will be installed on the terminal’s main entry side walls and face into the north and south lounges.

“I thought that the rings embody a sense of departure and returning that was in keeping with a project for an airport,” Morrey told the Missourian. “They also sort of describe the cyclical nature of our days, our lunar cycles, our years; there’s a larger context we can put our journeys into. We can see them in this different light as a bigger part of the motion of the universe.”

Morrey was commissioned through the Percent for Art program to sculpt two brass dogs and a bird for the third floor of the renovated and expanded Daniel Boone City Building. You can find other examples of his work on his website.

He said that the Percent for Art program was instrumental in helping him set up Dogwood and that without it, he wouldn’t have been able to help the 30-plus artists who use the studio.

“I can’t stress enough the benefits of the Percent for Art program for our community, so I was really pleased to be chosen for the project,” Morrey said. “I’m honored to have been selected as our local representative for the regional airport. It’s very nice to be recognized in this way.”

David Griggs, “Columbia Crossing”

Griggs has completed more than 60 commissioned works of art across the U.S. He earned a master’s degree in fine arts at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He and his wife, Stella, live in a 140-year-old building in Denver’s burgeoning Santa Fe Arts District.

Griggs has focused on creating public art for the past 30 years. His “Columbia Crossing” piece will be a “suspended atrium” work, a type of sculpture he’s done many times, according to his website.

The primarily blue metal sculpture will appear to float over the airport terminal’s main hall space and will be adorned with glass panels featuring hand-painted images specific to Columbia and Boone County. It’s intended to convey a sense of movement.

“This seemed like a great opportunity to do something in a really uplifting, light-filled space, in the main hall of your new airport, then to try and touch base with those qualities of Columbia that relate to the airport, that relate to transportation, that relate to the centrality of Columbia’s position in the world,” Griggs said. “All of these things I was trying to get across with the design.”

Griggs estimated about 50% of his work has been Percent for Arts projects and called it the “bread and butter” of what he does.

“It’s very valuable. It’s contributed to many communities across the country,” Griggs said of the program. “Columbia has a very strong program that’s been going for a long time. A lot of projects that Columbia has done identify the character of Columbia and give the city definition and an identity.”

Griggs specifically mentioned the “Keys to the City” sculpture outside the Daniel Boone Building and how it brings character and definition to the city. He said he’s happy to bring some of his work to Columbia.

“I’m delighted. It’s a great opportunity to contribute to a community,” he said. “I was overjoyed with the possibilities for it.”

  • Public Life reporter, Fall 2020 Studying investigative journalism Email me at or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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