7 Art Deco Style Mosaics - Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport
Amazingly, there are fourteen 20'x20' mosaic murals in this airport. They portray the industrial era in Cincinnati and were created in Art Deco style. 15 murals originally were located on the walls of Cincinnati's Union Terminal railway station. Created in the 1930's, the technique used to create these mosaics was very different.
The artist wanted to depict the American worker in an accurate and dignified way, so he photographed actual workers as they were performing their daily tasks. He wanted to use "unnamed workers working for unnamed businesses." Since Art Deco emulated the machine age, it worked extremely well with the theme of these mosaics.
"Silhouette Style" is what this mosaic method became known as. Glass was pressed into wet plaster on the walls of the terminal, and after the plaster was dry, the backing paper was peeled off. All remaining areas were tediously filled in with stucco that had been colored.
In 1972, rail passenger service stopped and Union Terminal was sold. Now the murals needed to be saved. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport agreed to take them, so they were crated and moved in 1973. One huge mosaic, measuring 60' wide could not be saved. Foundations and walls of the new airport had to be reinforced to support these 8-ton murals, and then all 14 murals were reinstalled in the airport in 1974.
20 years later, 5 murals had to be moved again due to an expansion of terminal 3. A special climate controlled building, special lifting devices and ramps had to be constructed to relocate these huge mosaics, which cost around $1 million. These mosaics, however, are considered priceless.
Just recently, a big undertaking occurred to try to identify the workers depicted in the mosaics, and give them back their identities. There are 35 workers captured in these mosaics and now they have all been individually identified. It took 8 months of research, sifting through photos, birth and death certificates, conducting interviews, checking census data, and thousands of emails from readers trying to help. The common thread throughout these murals is that these men "pay tribute to anyone who has ever broken a sweat on the job. They honor those who take pride in their work and strive for perfection."