MSP airport art urges viewers to consider energy use

Arlene Birt tests her artwork.
Arlene Birt tests lighting during installation of her art piece, "Behind the Outlet," which is being installed at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.
Courtesy Arlene Birt

A new public art display at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is aimed at challenging people to think about where their energy comes from.

Local artist Arlene Birt installed motion sensors over certain tables in the airport's food court that correspond to a lighting display on the wall.

When people sit at certain tables, parts of the display light up, such as washing machines and other appliances. She says it also shows people how the appliance is powered.

"I'm fascinated by the way people are tied to the world by small, everyday interactions, such as flipping on a light switch, turning on your computer," she said. "I think the more people are reminded of all that goes into these small, everyday actions, I hope that will help nudge people gradually toward a conservation mindset."

Birt's installation will be on display through 2019. The art is part of a partnership between Xcel Energy and the airport to improve energy efficiency.

Xcel has worked with the airport to install a 3-megawatt solar array and has upgraded airport equipment and lighting, resulting in savings of 3 million kilowatt hours since 2013.

The airport has also upgraded to more efficient motors and drives for moving walkways and adopted LED lighting throughout the facility and parking ramps.

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