United Gives Women Artists a Huge New Canvas: A Whole Aircraft

Contest to design the exterior of a Boeing 757

Perturbed by the statistic that 51 percent of today's artists are women but less than 13 percent of art on display in museums is by female artists, United has launched a contest to give two women a giant new canvas on which to display their art—the exterior of a Boeing 757 airplane. 

Working with agencies Laundry Service and Cycle Media, the carrier has launched #HerArtHere, a contest that encourages women to submit a design idea, along with their work portfolio and a short video, before March 24. Two winners will be chosen to represent two key markets for the airline—New York/New Jersey and California. 

The winners will work alongside artist Shantell Martin to finalize a design for their region's plane. Martin also appears in a video talking about the contest: 

United | Her Art Here

The contest coincides with Women's History Month, which kicked off March 1. 

"As a company, we believe in the importance of equality of women in what has historically been a male dominated field," says Jill Kaplan, United's president for New York and New Jersey. "When we heard the statistics about how underrepresented women are when it comes to displaying their art, we thought what better way to contribute to changing this narrative than by offering the biggest canvas we have access to—an aircraft."

Martin worked on murals, unveiled recently in Los Angeles and Brooklyn, that advertise the contest: 

United will choose three finalists from each region. A public vote from April 10–19 will determine the winners. All six finalists will receive their own open gallery show, have their art work displayed inside United terminals through 2019 with their works available to purchase. They will also be awarded 100,000 MileagePlus award miles each. 

The final designs will be painted on the planes in the fall.

United says it has long been a leader in advancing women in the aviation industry. It currently has more women pilots than any other airline in the world, including Bebe O'Neil, its System Chief Pilot, who manages all of the carrier's 12,600 pilots. The airline has worked with Women in Aviation, a nonprofit providing networking, education, mentoring and scholarship opportunities, for more than 25 years, and with Girls in Aviation Day, to ensure a growing number of female pilots. 

"As a global company with inclusion at our core, we constantly seek unique opportunities to celebrate and showcase diverse talents," says United's California president, Janet Lamkin. "We are thrilled to have the opportunity through this unique contest to bring visibility to the work of these exceptional female artists. We take pride in leveraging our global presence to showcase their great work to millions of people who see our planes on the ground and in the sky."

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards.