Idia, a fashion designer, writer, and founder and creative director of the global women artisans collaborative, Idia’Dega, will spend June as the artist-in-residence for the Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT). During that time, she will spend two days a week at PIT sewing, cutting, and creating pieces from various materials and items donated by the passengers and staff she interacts with.
Idia says her plan is to trade travel stories for travel kit items, such as eye masks, earplugs, and neck pillows. “My pitch will be something like, ‘Trade you a story for a pair of slippers,’” says Idia.
She sees the project as a way of exploring fashion as it relates to travel.
“It is exciting because, especially now, there seems to be many camps in terms of travel wear - dress up, dress down, and dress for comfort,” says Idia. “I would like to enter conversations, not only about what people are wearing and why, but also what they buy, bring with them, buy as they travel, or leave as they pack and repack.”
Idia, a seasoned traveler who studied in Kenya and taught in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for two years, understand how stressed or rushed passengers can get, so she wanted to make the experience as simple as possible. She plans to move about the airport with a cart, allowing her to stay in one place or relocate, depending on how much people approach her. This way, those interested can talk with her for as long as they want.
“I don’t think many people will expect someone sewing in the middle of an airport concourse,” says Idia. “From my own travel experience, if there was an artist in an airport and I had the time, I would love to see what they’re making and talk to them about it.”
Idia is the latest person chosen for the artist-in-residence program, created by PIT and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council's Office of Public Art. She follows a yearlong project created by Blaine Siegel, the former education and outreach director for the now-closed Conflict Kitchen. Local puppet maker Cheryl Capezzuti was recently chosen to serve as the next artist-in-residence.
Rachel Rearick, the arts and culture manager for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, says she’s excited to see where Idia’s “global perspective” takes her as she engages with passengers and invites them to create with her.
“Tereneh has shared some broad ideas related how she may approach the design of a few adornment pieces, reflective of flight and movement,” says Rearick. “Based on our discussions, I’m certain that culmination of her work will prove to be fascinating!”
Rearick adds that PIT is one of only a few airports in the world with artist-in-residence programs, making it a relatively new concept. “In my opinion, the beauty of these residencies is that they provide passengers with opportunities to expand how they think about air travel and the ways in which they move through their experiences.”
While the artist-in-residence program makes PIT unique, Idia hopes more airports will adopt their own as a way to showcase the culture of their respective cities.
“I think Pittsburgh International Airport is really telling the story of Pittsburgh and art in a creative way,” says Idia. “It is exciting to be part of it.”