Public Art Destinations Across America

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PUBLIC ART ACROSS AMERICA
20 Destinations from Southern California to Central Kentucky

A Love Your Parks Tour List by Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid, assigned by contemporary figurative artist Victoria Chick

 

Public art not only celebrates the arts and employs artists, but it also interprets the stories of a region, creates a dialogue, and provides a sense of place. In turn, this kind of beautification boosts community pride as well as economic value.

“Art is too important not to share.” Romero Britto


As we travel across America on our Love Your Parks Tour, we see that there’s a steady growth of public art programs in historic downtown districts, rural communities and contemporary cities, parks and public spaces. It’s free for the viewer, and whether on foot, behind the wheel, or pedaling a bicycle, it can be a fun treasure hunt and a unique way to explore a place. We’ve followed jogging and cycling trails and taken self-guided walking and driving tours, and viewed all kinds of art forms from sculptures and murals to painted electric boxes and storm drains, mosaic-tiled steps, whimsical bike racks, carved dead trees, kinetic art, barn quilts, bike racks, roadside attractions and metalwork on bridges.

Contemporary figurative artist Victoria Chick, a longtime Big Blend contributing expert on art and art history, sent us on a special Public Art story assignment as part of Love Your Parks Tour. We’ve created an interactive map on our site NationalParkTraveling.com showcasing all of the public art experiences we have had so far, and we can’t wait to add more!

Whether you’re an art lover or a family looking for a fun day trip or weekend activity, here are some of our favorite public art destinations from California to Central Kentucky.


CALIFORNIA

Downtown Hollister – From a mural in a tunnel to a painted utility box, there are over 20 colorful stops to visit on a self-guided public art tour of historic downtown Hollister. Through murals, sculptures, terrazzo, and architectural design features, the public art pieces add a vibrant atmosphere to the downtown whilst portraying the stories of the history, nature, people, and commerce of Hollister, San Benito County, and nearby Pinnacles National Park.

Tulare County – Home to Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks, Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest, Tulare County is home to agricultural communities, many adorned with a series of murals and sculptures, and host to art walks and free art-related events. Main public art destinations include Visalia’s Downtown Mural Trail and sculpture series, Porterville’s Centennial Plaza Park and downtown murals, Tulare’s downtown mural series, Exeter’s Downtown Mural Tour of over 30 large murals and new wildlife sculptures, Three Rivers’ 1st Saturday studio and gallery tour, and Lindsay’s downtown mural series.

Twentynine Palms – Gateway to Joshua Tree National Park and the Mojave National Preserve, this high desert destination, known as the Oasis of Murals, has always been an art community. Committed to public art, Twentynine Palms is home to over 60 pieces of public art including murals, sculptures, and various art installations.

Coast Highway 101 – From murals and painted electrical boxes to artsy bike racks, kinetic sculptures and tree carvings, this coastal stretch of North San Diego County is a hub of colorful art. The annual summer Leucadia ARTWalk is the largest juried art show in the region. Swami’s Beach Park is home to woodworker Tim Richards’ Moai statue from an 11-foot base of a bark beetle-infested Torrey pine tree, and the Swami’s Surfing Memorial designed and built by Leucadia artist George Bredehof.

ARIZONA
Yuma – Dubbed the “Gateway to the Great Southwest,” Yuma is making a name for itself as an art destination. Part of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, the historic downtown district is home to the Yuma Art Center and Historic Yuma Theater and is host to a full calendar of art-related events throughout the year. The downtown is also decked out with murals, sculptures and art installations, as is the entire city. Whether it’s a local business investing in the art, a visiting mural artist, or a DIY community or youth project, public art has become a consistent endeavor in Yuma that’s well worth experiencing.

Greater Tucson – Along with numerous galleries and art museums, the city of Tucson is home to over 45 murals and around 20 public art sculptures and structures. A unique way to experience some this public art is on the Chuck Huckleberry Loop. Encompassing over 130-miles of shared-use paths and bike lanes that connect Tucson with unincorporated Pima County, Marana, Oro Valley, and South Tucson, The Loop features over 60 public art installations. Oro Valley is home to over 170 public art pieces, as well as free guided public art tours. Nearby, the Town of Marana has begun installing a series of public art pieces as part of a long-term project of creating a downtown space.

Ore Cart Trail
– Featuring various sculptures and public art installations that reflect the area’s mining heritage, the Ore Cart Trail is a scenic route initiative that was created to boost tourism along Arizona’s Copper Corridor of small mining towns between Tucson and Phoenix.


Winslow – The downtown Standin’ on the Corner Park commemorates the Eagles’ first single “Take it Easy” that features the lyrics, “Standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.” It’s a popular public art destination and selfie location that features a Trompe-l’œil mural by John Pugh, a life-sized bronze statue of a musician by Ron Adamson named “Easy,” and a life-size bronze statue of Glenn Frey.


NEW MEXICO

Silver City – Gateway to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, Gila National Forest, and Gila Wilderness Area, Silver City is a vibrant art community that’s listed in “100 Best Art Towns in America” by author John Villani, and is one of the first New Mexico towns to be designated as an Arts & Cultural District. Showcasing the area’s history, natural beauty, and creative community, the region features over 50 murals, many of which are a product of the Mimbres Region Arts Council Youth Mural Project.

Gallup – The downtown district features over fourteen murals that colorfully showcase the people, culture, and history of Gallup. The historic McKinley County Court House features a New Deal Art Collection and a mural. Listed in the Smithsonian Art Database, We the People Park features the 110-foot long steel “We the People” sculpture and other sculptures that represent “free speech, pluralism, democracy, and our coexistence with the environment.”

Santa Fe – Boasting over 250 galleries, Santa Fe was the first designated UNESCO Creative City for craft and folk arts and is the country’s third-largest art market. It also has a robust Art in Public Places Program that features over 75 artworks. The New Mexico Capitol Art Collection at the State Capitol Complex represents over 600 New Mexico artists and is free to view. From the performing arts to visual arts, temporary public art collections can also be experienced at Railyard Park.


COLORADO
Florence – Known as the “Antique Capital of Colorado,” downtown Florence is a National Historic District. The Bell Tower Cultural Center, run by the Florence Arts Council, is home to several public art pieces as well as a gallery and educational center. Here you can pick up a Florence Sculpture Tour flyer that lists all of the area’s metal, clay and wood sculptures. Many of the wood sculptures are carvings made out of dead trees.

Greeley – This northeast city’s public art collection consists of over 375 works of rotating indoor art and more than 170 pieces of outdoor art that have been donated, gifted or purchased since 1967. The historic downtown district is vibrant with numerous murals, sculptures, and even decorative bike racks. Other public art highlights include over 30 art tree sculptures, plus, the “Go West” art fence at Centennial Village.

KANSAS
Dodge City – The Historic Dodge City Self-guided Walking Tour showcases the city’s legendary frontier history with storyboards, sculptures, pole art banners, and the Dodge City Trail of Fame that features over 29 medallions.

TEXAS
Nacogdoches – It’s only fitting that along with murals and sculptures, “The Oldest Town of Texas” has a statue trail that interprets the lives and works of its notable residents. The Trail features 11 statues that showcase the likes of Stephen F. Austin “The Father of Texas,” and writer Karle Wilson Baker, to  prominent architect Diedrich Rulfs, and pioneer Dón Antonio Gil Ybarbo.

LOUISIANA
Lake Charles – After a major renovation, the 1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center opened its doors as the City of Lake Charles’ public art gallery and cultural facility in 2004. Visitors come from all over the country to view its high-caliber exhibitions that have included Pablo Picasso, Ansel Adams, Norman Rockwell, and Tasha Tudor. Other public art highlights include sculptures, murals, and, the ever-elusive painted “Gators on the Geaux” statues that were a special 2001-2002 fundraising project for the Lake Charles Symphony.

Leesville – Located in Vernon Parish, the unique Magnolia Art Park features contemporary sculptures, a melody garden, and book nooks. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Historic Vernon Parish Courthouse has a wonderful collection of paintings that portray the region’s military and lumber history.

Toledo Bend Lake Country – Being such a popular fishing destination, the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission developed the Fish Statue program to showcase the local artistic talent, the culture of the region, and to create a fun “find the fish” day trip of exploration.

ARKANSAS
Little Rock – Home to over 100 sculptures, along with murals, whimsical bike racks and even painted storm drains, Little Rock brims with public art. Highlights include the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden overlooking the Arkansas River, art exhibits at the Old State House Museum which is the original state capitol of Arkansas, the Robinson Center history wall and sculptures, River Lights in the Rock Bridges nightly light shows, H. U. Lee International Gate and Garden, the Main Street Creative Corner, 2nd Friday Art Night after-hours art walk throughout the downtown district, and the Drain Smart Mural Project.

KENTUCKY
Washington County
– Located in the heart of Central Kentucky, the Washington County Barn Quilt Trail is a self-guided driving tour that features the area’s barns and showcases the area’s heritage as well as the art of quilting. Each quilt design depicts a personal or family connection to its owner, and may only be used once. The quilts are eight-foot square panels that are meticulously painted according to the owner’s specifications and then hung on the farm’s barns and other significant buildings. Some panels are free-standing, mounted securely beside the road for all to see. For more information, see: https://blendradioandtv.com/listing/central-kentucky-barn-quilt-tour/


To view and follow all of our public art experiences on the Love Your Parks Tour, check out our Public Art Across America interactive map on our travel site, NationalParkTraveling.com.

National Parks Arts Foundation Artist Victoria Chick

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