Former S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford hasn't ventured into the limelight too much since her split with ex-governor and now-U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford.

That changed in December, when she was appointed to the Charleston County Aviation Authority. Since then, the Sullivan's Island resident has for the most part quietly listened and learned, speaking up mostly about the airport's furniture needs when a $200 million overhaul of the terminal is completed in 15 months.

Now, she heads a more public role - that of leading the committee charged with dressing up the airport with artwork when construction is completed in September 2015.

For many of the nearly 3 million people who pass through the state's busiest airport every year, the terminal is the first impression of the Lowcountry, and Sanford said she intends to make it something special.

"I see this as much more of a welcoming gateway," she said Friday. "I see the art as having a Lowcountry feel and being distinctively pleasant. This artwork is going to look and make our airport look fabulous." Passengers probably won't see Rembrandts or van Goghs hanging from refurbished walls, but they likely will glance upon some stunning visuals of the Lowcountry.

Sanford, a former investment banker on Wall Street who now earns $35 per airport board meeting, and other Lowcountry art aficionados started muddling over the details Friday, such as the type of artwork and where to display it.

No money has been set aside specifically for the task, but Airports Director Paul Campbell believes it will cost less than $100,000.

"It won't be a million dollars," he said. "I can tell you that."

Committee member Angela Mack, director of the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston, said educating travelers about Charleston as soon as they land should be central to any pieces presented at the airport.

"It can have a calming effect for people who may feel anxious about traveling anyway," Mack said.

She also recommended the airport not display expensive pieces because of all the natural light pouring into the facility from the new glass being installed to brighten the 30-year-old building.

"As much as we want wonderful, original pieces, the more windows you have, the worse it is," Mack said. "You will never have museum-quality humidity and air control."

Retired attorney and developer Leonard Long of Kiawah Island, also a member of the panel, suggested the group hire or engage a consultant to look at the available spaces and make a recommendation for the best way to feature art pieces.

He also recommended top-notch photography as well as paintings and free-standing pieces be incorporated to liven up the newly renovated facility.

"Photography will help the budget, but you will want a few killer pieces," Long said.

He suggested pictures related to Boeing Co., which assembles the 787 Dreamliner on airport property, showing, "how that amazing plane rolls out," among other photographs.

Marshes, docks and waterfowl could also be included.

"It's never generic and never out of the area," Long said of the art pieces decided upon. "If you do it at the AA double-plus level, people would say, 'I would like to come back and live and work there.'"

Mack suggested that before moving forward any further, the airport develop a policy for what art it wants, how to acquire it and how to dispose of it when new pieces are brought in.

"I've seen 10,000 objects in 35 years," Mack said. "They just don't go away."

An acquisitions committee also may need to be appointed.

Limited space

Because of all that new glass being installed to lighten the aging terminal, space for art is limited.

"That doesn't mean we can't do something dramatic," Sanford said.

Some walls in the two concourses where the boarding gates are located can be used as well as space in the baggage claim area, a long corridor leading to Concourse B, some of the atrium space and the new consolidated security area. Free-standing pieces, such as a ship model, could be placed along the front glass wall being installed and in other locations.

Even the exposed concrete pillars supporting the building could be lighted and dressed up with specially designed photographs to bring more artwork into the building.

"I don't want to see any advertising on them," Sanford said of the columns.

"We are going to have to be creative since most walls aren't available," Long said.

Wherever the artwork is placed, it can't interfere with security cameras mandated by the Transportation Security Administration, said Al Britnell, deputy director of airport administration and public safety.

Sanford suggested the possibility of a live palmetto tree planted in the atrium where the dome is being installed or doing something else altogether.

"Small paintings are going to get lost" in the large atrium space, Sanford said.

Some images of the Lowcountry, such as a marsh, will be incorporated in the new flooring to be installed throughout the terminal building, said John Connell, deputy director of airport administration and facilities.

Art of lighting

Mack suggested airport officials consider what lighting will be necessary for the artwork while renovations are underway. She recommended unrecessed track lighting so it can be moved around if necessary.

"The worst thing is to put up works of art that don't have all the accoutrements," she said. "It's how it's presented, not where it's placed."

Glass cases with internal lighting could display some pieces and could be easily moved around if necessary, Mack said.

Airport officials must also make a decision about what to do with its current art pieces, most of which are in storage while construction takes place. Many of them have been at the airport since the 1980s, and the panel could look at new art to reflect the almost-all-new terminal.

"You could remove pieces from the collection and put them on long-term loan at another location," Mack said.

She also suggested some pieces that have been badly damaged over the years should be destroyed, but only after conferring with the artist.

"That's not unheard of," Mack said. "It either becomes a storage issue or you quietly put them to bed."

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or