Memphis Airport apologizes to artist

In mid-February, Memphis artist Tommy Kha shared an Instagram post celebrating the fact that one of his pieces was included among the artwork installed at Memphis International Airport as part of the newly reopened Concourse B.

“Termin[inal]s of Endearment,” the Asian American artist and Elvis fan wrote, “still kinda stunned to be part of this collection…”

The artwork, a self-portrait depicting the artist dressed as Memphis icon Elvis Presley, was one of 61 new art pieces Memphis pubic art non-profit UrbanArt Commission helped choose for the new terminal.

But at the beginning of this week, Kha was back on social media. This time sharing a photo of the empty wall at the airport where the artwork had been.

“Apologies to those who wished to see this piece: it is no longer on display,” he wrote. “After some disturbing complaints about my work, it was decided, and without my knowledge, the pictures were removed.”

Why was it removed?

In a statement shared with local media, airport president and CEO Scott Brockman said that after receiving “a lot of negative feedback” from Elvis fans, and a “small number” of complaints that referred to Kha’s race (and which MEM officials said were “completely inappropriate,”) the airport had decided to temporarily remove the piece.

“When the airport created its art program, our goal was to purchase and display artwork that did not include public figures or celebrities,” Brockman said in his statement. “Our selection committee made an exception in the case of Tommy Kha’s piece and recommended its purchase.”

As you may imagine, the decision to remove the piece didn’t sit well with art fans and many members of the community. Nor with the Urban Art Commission, which said on social media that it had worked with the airport authority and selection committee to curate “an art program that speaks to a diverse and authentic creative community representative of Memphis.”

“We are opposed to Tommy Kha’s installation being removed from display, especially considering the openly racist comments made online in the development of this situation,” the group added.

Good news: the airport authority listened and will reinstall Kha’s work

Constellations VIII by Tommy Kha

In a “doing the right thing” move, the airport has quickly decided to apologize to the artist and reintall the artwork.

Here’s the statement – and apology – from Memphis airport authority President and CEO Scott Brockman:

Over the past 24 hours, we have heard from many in our community regarding the temporary removal of Tommy Kha’s artwork in the new concourse. The Airport Authority appreciates the support that the community has shown for Tommy and we have made the decision to reinstall the artwork. We apologize to Tommy for the effect that this ordeal has had on him.

As stated yesterday, when the airport created its art program, our goal was to purchase and display artwork that did not include public figures or celebrities but made an exception in this case.

The Airport Authority will continue to emphasize local artists, diversity, and inclusion with this art program, and we will explore additional best practices to address how we handle complaints and public feedback about our artwork.

Right move.

Pitchfork has more on this story, along with some comments from Kha.

Stay at Sting’s, Cook where Julia cooked?

Thinking of where to fly to this summer? This round-up I did for NBC News of famous homes you can hang in may give you some ideas.

Fire Dragon

La Pitchoune, the 3-bedroom cottage in Provence where culinary icon Julia Child and her husband, Paul, spent their summers, is currently available on Airbnb for a minimum 5-night stay for $628 a night.
Known informally as La Peetch, in spring 2017 the cottage will begin hosting week-long cooking classes for six students at a time. In addition to “courageous cooking classes” in Julia Child’s barely-changed kitchen, the all-inclusive sessions include meals, wine, daily yoga classes and local excursions. Price: $3,250 per person.

At Il Palagio, the 16th-century Tuscan villa owned by the rock star Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, “guests can spend days touring the fields and the wine cellar, and nights drinking [the estate-made] “Message in a Bottle” Sangiovese over a meal prepared by the villa’s chef,” says Bruce Wallin of the Robb Report, “And, of course, this being Sting’s place, after dinner you can open up the onsite recording studio and cut a track.”

While there is no weekly-stay requirement, the 9-bedroom, 10 bathroom villa must be booked in its entirety and, as it is “one of the most exclusive and luxurious villas in all of Italy,” according to booking site TuscanDream.com, “is priced accordingly.” How much? You’ll have to call.

In London, groups of up to 16 people can book private tours of the Tower of London that are followed by a private viewing of the Crown Jewels with the Chief Exhibitor and dinner in the Queen’s House. Organized by IfOnly, a site that creates unusual and extravagant experiences, the tour and dinner costs $11,565 per person and benefits the Save the Children charity.

Too rich for your budget? Here are less-expensive ways to stay and/or play at the homes of other famous folks.

George Washington's Mount Vernon - All the President's Pups walking tour

At George Washington’s Mount Vernon, just south of Washington, D.C., visitors and their dogs can join the “All the President’s Pups” tour for a walk around areas of the property usually off limits to guests. (Price: $7 in addition to admission, with is $20/$17 when purchased online; pups: free). Foodies might enjoy the Dinner for the Washingtons walking tour, which visits the mansion’s gardens, food storage cellar and greenhouse. (Price: $$7 in addition to admission)

Garden tasting tours (vegetable tasting included) and archeology walking tours are some of the extra options offered at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA (day pass and house tour: $25), while a locally-sourced Summer Farm Dinner series ($85 to $125/person) is offered at Taliesin, fame architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and 800-acre architectural campus in Spring Green, Wisc.
At Taliesin West, Wright’s winter home in Scottsdale, AZ and now the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, there’s a garden walk tour, a private collections tour, a tour for photographers, a family-friendly junior architect tour and an evening tour during which a fire-breathing dragon makes an appearance.

Of course, there’s always Graceland, Elvis Presley’s mansion and sprawling estate in Memphis, which draws over half a million visitors each year.

The basic mansion tour at Graceland ($38.75) satisfies some fans, but the Platinum ($42.50) and Entourage VIP ($75) tours offer a plethora of extras, including admission to Elvis’ automobile museum and an ‘archives experience’ that allows visitors to see some artifacts not seen on the traditional tour. For those who want to get even closer to the King of Rock and Roll, the 450-room Guest House at Graceland is opening this fall with a four day, star-studded celebration that will include live concerts and celebrity appearances from October 27-30.

(My story about staying at and visiting famous people’s homes first appeared on NBC News online.)

Airports mark Mother’s Day with flowers, pods & more


Nursing moms flying to or from JFK International Airport on JetBlue get a welcome new amenity on Wednesday with the unveiling of a Mamava lactation suite in T5.

The nursing “pods” are already in use at Vermont’s Burlington International Airport and Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport and there’s a growing list of airports that are doing their part to be truly “breastfeeding friendly.”

JetBlue’s nursing station is being installed at JFK T5 just in time for Mother’s Day and right now is scheduled to stay there for just six months, but the airline is hoping to make it permanent.

Mother’s Day is being celebrated at other airports as well.

Jacksonville Airport

Continuing a tradition, volunteer ambassadors at Florida’s Jacksonville International Airport will be handing out 1,000 carnations to passengers on Sunday, May 10.

And through May 10, passengers traveling through LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B and Philadelphia International Airport can take advantage of a sparkly Free Gift with Purchase offer.

Spend $100 in one or more shops and (while supplies last…) you can redeem the receipts for a multi-strand crystal and pearl bracelet. There’s also a Twitter contest to give away five of those bracelets (valued at $45) at each airport.

Details on both offers here and here.


And if you happen to be passing through Frankfurt International Airport on Mother’s Day, look for Elvis.

In addition to performances by a champion Elvis impersonator, there will be a rockabilly band, an acoustic trio singing Elvis songs and a exhibit of photos and souvenirs related to Elvis’s stint as a soldier.

There will also be a vintage car show in front of Terminal 1, contests and – for anyone who shows ups wearing an Elvis costume or a 1950s outfit, free entry to the airports’ observation deck, known as the Visitors’ Terrace.


More stuff spotted at the Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas


I spent two full days this week walking up and down the aisles of the giant Travel Goods Show in Las Vegas.

A few of the fun items soon to be in stores and gift shops – including 3-D rolling bags featuring SpongeBob Squarepants and friends – were posted yesterday here on StuckatTheAirport.com.

Here are a few more:

Among the many new designs from Heys USA is this set of pieces called Divas


And this one called Travel :


The folks at Visionair have several pieces of luggage featuring Felix the Cat:


And these retro tags from Retro Tags are so… retro:

Retro Tags

And, because no trip to Las Vegas is successful without an Elvis sighting, here’s “Zebra Elvis” – spotted while I was in the van on the way to the airport.


Greetings from Las Vegas

I’m looking forward to having a few hours to explore the new Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport on my way home from a conference in Las Vegas today. But when I arrived I was tickled to see that there were gaming machines in the T3 baggage claim area.  It makes perfect sense.

This week Las Vegas – a city Elvis Presley loved – is joining the rest of the world in marking the 35th anniversary of the rock icon’s death on August 16th. At Madame Tussauds Las Vegas, anyone who shows up dressed as Elvis will be able to take advantage of a two-for-one admission offer.