Contemporary Artist Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee continues to make waves
The search for the most outstanding projects integrating commissioned art into interior, architectural or public spaces brought CODAawards: Collaboration of Design + Art around the globe.
The 11th annual international design competition found a winner in Houston.
Janavi Mahimatura Folmsbee was honored with the “People’s Choice” prize for her installation – the Aquarius Art Tunnel at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
She is bringing the award to Texas – a major win for the city of Houston.
Winners in other categories reside across the country Utah, New York, Ohio, Florida, California, as well as in Canada, Italy, Taiwan, Germany and the UK.
The CODAawards received a record-breaking 411 entries for this year’s competition – from 24 different countries, representing over $54 million in commissions. A distinguished panel of 18 jurors reviewed and scored the entries.
CODAworx winners were published in the September 2023 issue of CODAmagazine. The honorees were recognized on Oct. 6 at CODAsummit in San José, California. Mahimtura Folmsbee attended with Alton DuLaney, curator of public art and director of cultural arts programs at Houston Airports, who submitted her work for the award.
“Now the world’s best airport art program officially has the world’s best public arts project,” DuLaney said. “The immersive art experience by Indian-born, Houston-based artist Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee received more than 20 percent of the total votes cast. That’s the most votes of any artwork in the history of the award.”
The Aquarius Art tunnel has also received the National Mural Award in 2023 for Region 4 in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
The United Nations Decades of Ocean Science For Sustainable Development (UNDOS), created by UNESCO, also endorsed the Aquarius art tunnel as a global site for its scientific and educational importance towards ocean conservation through artistic outreach.
Mahimtura Folmsbee is the first female South Asian artist to be featured in the Houston Airports Public Art Program and collection.
The “Aquarius Art Tunnel” is 240 feet long, almost 9 feet high and 22 feet wide. Walking through it will transport travelers to under the sea, complete with colorful murals of aquatic life.
Mahimtura Folsmbee’s design was inspired by Flower Garden Banks Marine National Sanctuary on the Texas coast. She selected dozens of marine life from the reef – including coral, fish, algae, crinoids, sharks, Atlantic dolphins, turtles, eels, manta rays, octopi, mollusks and lobsters.
The detailed art for both walls of the tunnel has been created with the newest mural-making technology. Mahimtura Folmsbee worked with Emma Hickerson, G.P. Schmal and Jake Emmert of Moody Gardens to ensure the work is scientifically accurate, representing the deeper regions and mesophotic zones that are at 600 feet and below in the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico.
The tunnel is a space that showcases multiple artistic techniques, including fine art murals, floor designs, lenticulars, ceiling tiles, light and sound. A didactic panel will allow visitors to access the tunnel’s full features and augmented reality.
Original music, composed by Houston musician Andrew Karnavas, plays in the space, as well as recordings provided by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. The artist also contributed sounds from her personal diving excursions.
Mahimtura Folmsbee is focused on making the final product educational. The title of the installation pays homage to the constellation Aquarius, the water-bearer. The word “Aquarius” can be broken down into: “aqua,” representing water; and “ri,” inspired by the Hindi word “humari,” which translates to “ours,” and finally “us.”
“Taken together, the words signify that water has the power to unite us,” Mahimtura Folmsbee said. “Water is ours – for all of us.”
Marine conservation is at the center of Mahimtura Folmsbee’s oeuvre. This installation will serve as a continuation of years of effort to draw attention to the health of the world’s oceans.
Mahimtura Folmsbee’s drive to help the marine world has grown since she began diving 11 years ago. She has completed 253 dives.
Mahimtura Folmsbee works with marine scientists in the global community and sits on the Sanctuary Advisory Council for the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, as an advisory to the superintendent of the sanctuary through the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
“Marine life and algae need our help now more than ever,” Mahimtura Folmsbee said.