DIA picks artist Thomas “Detour” Evans to create art for the airport’s gate expansion

Detour’s best known for his large-scale murals, but this time he’s creating a sculpture.
2 min. read
A rendering of Thomas “Detour” Evans’ sculpture, “It’s Not What You Take, It’s What You Bring Back,” which will be installed at Denver International Airport in 2025.
Thomas "Detour" Evans

Denver International Airport's art collection keeps growing. DIA announced Tuesday that it plans to install a new work by Thomas "Detour" Evans titled "It's Not What You Take, It's What You Bring Back" in 2025.

Evans is best known for his large-scale, figurative murals of community leaders. He's painted portraits of Jay-Z and David Letterman for Letterman's Netflix show, "My Next Guest," and created large-scale murals across the country. He was active in the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, painting an iconic image of the victim of police violence.

The colorful sculpture will be a massive three-dimensional figure created from upcycled luggage.

The installation will be accompanied by a website archiving the various pieces of luggage and the diverse neighborhoods, individuals and histories they came from.

The artwork will be 30 feet long by 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall and will hang above the concourse ceiling starting in 2025.

The installation, which will cost $450,000, was funded by Denver's 1% for Public Art Ordinance, which allocates 1% of the budget of all city construction projects to public art.

Several more installations, tied to the concourse expansion, will be announced in the years to come.

"I am proud that millions of travelers will discover this piece during their time at the airport," Evans said in a statement. "By using Colorado luggage, the work is an open invitation to learn about each other. I wanted the work to strike a common chord amongst all travelers regardless of background. I hope that once installed, the work gives travelers an opportunity to feel more connected with each other as we are all figuring out this thing called life."

Artist Thomas Evans, known as Detour, pauses while working on his mural on June 17, 2020. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

Evans' "It's Not What You Take, It's What You Bring Back," will be installed as part of the Concourse B-East expansion. His proposal for the sculpture was picked by a group of arts and culture workers, community members and civic leaders.

"The Gate Expansion Program is not only bringing 39 new gates to DEN, increasing overall capacity at the airport by 30%, but it's also bringing new, energizing artwork to the new spaces," said DIA CEO Phil Washington, in a statement. "We're delighted that Denver artist Detour was selected to bring color and imagination into Concourse B."

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