Press Kit

The Arts Program

Since opening the Thomas F. Riley Terminal (Riley Terminal) in September 1990, John Wayne Airport (JWA) has displayed more than 200 exhibitions designed to provide visitors with a memorable travel experience through exhibitions of arts, science and popular culture.

The John Wayne Airport Arts Program is overseen by a Board appointed five-member Airport Arts Commission. The Arts Program has presented a series of museum-quality exhibitions, produced publications, sponsored an annual County-wide Student Art Contest/Exhibition, and presented special programs in conjunction with the exhibitions. Exhibitions and programs are organized around themes such as traditional and contemporary visual art, science, professional sports, popular culture, student art, Orange County history, aviation and multicultural arts.

Annual Student Art Contest and Exhibition
JWA holds an aviation themed Student Art Contest that is open to all public and private schools in Orange County, including home-schooled students, grades kindergarten through 12. The contest takes place in the fall and winning artworks are displayed in the Arrival (lower) Level adjacent to Baggage Carousels 1 and 4 of the Riley Terminal throughout the December holidays. Winning entries are then sent on to state, national and international levels of competition. The International Aviation Art Contest is sponsored by the National Aeronautic Association, National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration. JWA winners have received top awards at state, national and international levels of the contest.

Community Focus Space Program
The Community Focus Space program exhibits art by Orange County-related artists, in solo-style exhibitions. Display cases are located on the non-secure side near security checkpoints and adjacent to Baggage Carousels 1 and 4.

The Vi Smith Concourse Gallery
A series of 31 wall-mounted art display cases located in Terminal A, across from Gates 2 through 5, and in Terminal C, across from Gates 18 through 21, exhibit museum-quality rotating art exhibitions. Each case is six feet tall and 12 feet wide. The exhibitions presented in these cases, collectively referred to as the “Vi Smith Concourse Gallery” in honor of a former Chair of the Airport Arts Commission, are professionally curated. The Vi Smith Concourse Gallery has featured ceramics, photography, painting, textiles and a wide variety of other subjects including professional sports, science and popular culture.

Orange County: Destination Art and Culture
In 2011, the Airport launched a new exhibition program titled: Orange County: Destination Art and Culture. Eleven wall-mounted cases were installed along the pedestrian walkway connecting Terminals B and C. Located prior to security screening, this program is intended to “connect” Orange County’s non-profit art and cultural organizations with the millions of visitors who travel through the facility each year.

Flight of Ideas
As part of the Airport Improvement Program, a large sculptural public art piece was installed above the baggage carousels in Terminal C. The sculpture is composed of 21 aluminum birds, with wing spans ranging in size from three feet to 14 feet, suspended from a 100-foot long, flat “S” shaped truss. Created from aluminum and Plexiglas, the wings of the birds display enlarged portions of aeronautical charts. The piece, “Flight of Ideas,” was selected from more than 20 proposals submitted by artists across the country as part of a competitive selection process. The artist, Beth Nybeck, is based in Kansas City and has previously created public art projects that can be found in Iowa and New Jersey. Dick Jobe owns Machine Head, a high-tech machine shop in Kansas City and served as a senior advisor and technical expert to Nybeck.

For more information, contact Jeffrey Frisch at 949.252.5124.

John Wayne Airport (SNA) is owned by the County of Orange and is operated as a self-supporting enterprise that receives no general fund tax revenue. The Airport serves more than 10 million passengers annually and reaches more than 20 nonstop destinations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. More information can be found at Like us on, or follow us on Twitter @johnwayneair and Instagram @johnwayneair.

Last updated: 08/17/18