LONG BEACH - For years, works of art lay hidden beneath the feet of millions of passengers who annually frequent the Long Beach Airport.
It wasn't until recently, when the airport's maintenance team was restoring the terminal, that the 1941 mosaics by Works Progress Administration artist Grace Clements were found underneath old carpeting.
Found throughout the Art Deco airport's first floor, Clements' ceramic floor tile mosaics of a large global map, birds, a ship, an oil well and a hand dialing a telephone are a tribute to the city's aviation, oil and communications origins.
"It's so exciting to see the preservation of the floor and the personalization Clements brought to her work," said Laurel Howat, architectural historian and a member of the Cultural Heritage Commission in Long Beach. Howat added that the hand dialing a telephone may have represented that of Clements.
"She gave a personal touch to it all, signifying a very modern time in travel and communication," Howat said. "I'm so glad that the airport took the track of saving this floor."
The discovery of the mosaics comes as Long Beach Airport officials are planning to celebrate the opening of its new passenger concourse.
The new concourse will feature two terminal buildings and 4,200 square feet of outdoor seating with patios, fire pits, cabanas, suspended lights and space for outdoor performances.
It also will include more than 10,000 square feet of new retail and restaurant space managed by The Paradies Shops. New vendors include Polly's Coffee, Sweet Jill's Bakery, 4th Street Vine, George's Greek Cafe and second locations for Long Beach Clothing Co., which will be called 562 Experience, and McKenna's on the Bay, which will be named McKenna's on the Fly.
"This is our way of respecting and preserving the roots of the city and of Long Beach Airport," said Long Beach Airport Director Mario Rodriguez. "As we turn a new page in history by opening a more spacious and comfortable concourse for our passengers, LGB remains extremely proud of its beginnings.
The public will be able to view the mosaics at a community open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 9. It will be the only opportunity for the public to see the concourse without a boarding pass. Go to www.lgb.org for more information.