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Long-Unseen Portions of 1941 Mosaic Uncovered by Long Beach Airport Workers

Long-Unseen Portions of 1941 Mosaic Uncovered by Long Beach Airport Workers

Workers unveil mosaic vignette of propeller airplane in artwork by artist Grace Clements in Long Beach Airport's Historic Terminal. (Courtesy of the City of Long Beach)

City News Service

City News Service

8/31/2023

Updated: 8/31/2023

LONG BEACH, Calif.—Workers at Long Beach Airport have unearthed long-unseen portions of a communication and transportation-themed mosaic from 1941, it was announced on Aug. 31.
Collectively titled “Communication [Aviation and Navigation],” artist Grace Clements’s Long Beach-centric mosaic portrays a flight route map, a hand dialing a rotary telephone, maritime-themed art, oil wells, and even an emblem of the City of Long Beach’s incorporation.
The airport’s landmark terminal, currently undergoing renovations, “is home to some incredible public art that has been hidden for decades,” Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson said.
“The work being done behind the scenes at [the Long Beach Airport] to restore the building itself and the mosaic masterwork will ensure that it can be enjoyed for generations to come,” he said.
The ongoing $17.8 million renovation is expected to be completed early next year. It includes expert-led efforts to locate and protect the entire mosaic—made up of nine vignettes comprised of an estimated 1.6 million hand-cut tiles in about two dozen different colors.
Over the past few weeks, the final few hidden vignettes were found and uncovered, making it the first time in decades that the full mosaic has been visible, airport officials said.
Ms. Clements, born in 1905, was hired through the Work Projects Administration to create the federally funded floor mosaic and several murals prior to the terminal’s opening in 1941. The building itself was designed by renowned architects William Horace Austin and Kenneth Smith Wing and is known for its Streamline Moderne Art Deco style.
The airport remains open and fully operational throughout the renovation, although the building itself is closed to the public, and services have shifted to other areas of the facility.
The work on the terminal includes the preservation of the mosaic as well as a seismic retrofit, improved restrooms, and building infrastructure, and the restoration of significant design elements, with rental car services on the first floor and administrative offices on the second floor, officials said.
The Long Beach Airport—the oldest municipal airport in California—will mark its 100th anniversary on Nov. 26.
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