Waiting for hours to board your flight at LAX?
Cue the live performances.
A stroll through the right terminal at the right time will put travelers face-to-face with a folk singer or classical music quartet or a dance troupe. Cinco de Mayo brought a Mexican folk-dance company to LAX this year. Irish line dancers took center stage on St. Patrick’s Day.
Live performances have taken off at Los Angeles International Airport over the past couple years, with 18 performances by nine groups each year as part of the LAX Presents program.
The shows are put on by Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs LAX, in partnership with Grand Performances, a nonprofit that hosts concerts each summer at the California Plaza on downtown’s Bunker Hill.
They’re not the only acts on bill, either. Westfield Corp. – which operates stores and other concessions at Terminals 1, 2, 3, 6 as well as the Tom Bradley International Terminal, and has brought in a range of new stores and restaurants – has its own slate of performances. Some are tied to store openings, such as P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc.’s debut at the Bradley terminal, which was slated for May 16 and expected to feature lion dancers.
The stagecraft is a pleasant byproduct of all the construction going on at the airport.
The LAX Presents program was established two years ago as an offshoot of the requirement for public art to be funded by developers of commercial construction projects. Any projects valued at more than $500,000 must set aside 1 percent for public arts ranging from paintings or statues to performances.
There’s been $6 million set aside at LAX over the past few years as a result of terminal renovations, construction and related work, according to Sarah Cifarelli, LAWA’s airport art manager.
LAWA’s Board of Airport Commissioners in 2016 awarded a three-year, $195,000 contract to Grand Performances for a slate of 18 performances a year at various terminals. All the performers in the series are based in the Los Angeles area; each performs four times over two days at a specific terminal.
“We wanted to enhance the traveler experience with live performances of local cultural talent,” Cifarelli said. “It adds another level of interest, discovery and delight for the passengers at LAX.”
On this year’s slate: DJ mash-up/jazz performer Mark de Clive Lowe; folk singer Emily Elbert; the Bob Baker Marionette Theater and the Colburn School.
Cifarelli said airport officials will eye an expanded roster of performance groups as they consider a possible extension as the current three-year deal nears an end.
Westfield’s program is capitalizing on the terminal renovations, which have provided acoustically viable open spaces next to the stores and concessions it manages, according to Albert Hsieh, director of marketing for airports in the Western U.S. for Westfield Airports, a division of Westfield Corp.
Hsieh said Westfield has for several years marked the Lunar New Year celebrated by various Asian and Asian-American communities with live performers at LAX, but this year, expanded to recognize more holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.
“The renovations opened up more space and the sound quality is better for performances,” Hsieh said. “We’re bringing street-side experiences into the airport setting – creating lots of ‘Instagrammable’ moments.”