Art along Arizona’s highways

This post is a collection of “drive by shootings,” a gallery of art I gathered as we’ve driven along Arizona’s highways.  I was captivated by it the first time we were here in 2013, and now after cruising through 45 states I can say it’s only in Arizona where embellishments on exit ramps, around bridge abutments, and on interchanges and retaining walls can this art be seen and admired. 

All of these photos were taken through our car and RV windows as Steve zoomed toward various destinations.

Highway 17 N
Along I-17 heading north
Junction Interstate 17 and Highway 74
Junction of I-17 and highway 74

Interstate 17 N

Gambels Quail
Gambel’s Quail scurrying along highway 60, heading east

However, it’s in Tucson where I thought the art was most elaborate, displayed lively and colorfully.  Through my research I learned that many of these projects showcase cultural aspects of the southwest and tell stories of the local area.

The I-19 / I-10 interchange sports art in the shape of corn, beans, squash and sunflowers that honor the generations of native people who previously populated the region.

I-10 I-19 interchange
Interstate 10 and 19 interchange
Corn stalk art
Corn stalk cast


Designs frequently echoed the surrounding landscape or shared history.

On Interstate 19 at the Valencia Exit:

Interstate 19 southbound
I-19 southbound depicts Mission San Xavier, the Tohono O’odham reservation, and corn fields
I 19 Northbound
I-19 Northbound, these icons represent Kitt Peak Observatory, Davis Monthan Airbase and some native species of plants and animals (Tucson at a glance)
St Marys Exit
Photographic tile murals at St. Mary’s Road at I-10 depict images of people in the local neighborhoods
Twin Peaks Road Interchange
Cattails found in area river bottoms are represented by metal work on the I-10 bridge at the Twin Peaks Road interchange
Twin Peaks Road
At the Twin Peaks interchange, a mountain motif signifies the prominence of various mountain ranges surrounding the Tucson basin
A mariachi musician, a folklorico dancer, and a ceremonial Yaqui deer dancer
At the Prince Road interchange on I-10, a close-up of a mariachi musician, a folklorico dancer, and a ceremonial Yaqui deer dancer

Mosaic tile murals can be seen at the Miracle Mile Exit from I-10.

Miracle Mile Exit

Mosaic tile on eastbound I-10 at Miracle Mile
Tucson downtown skyline, eastbound
Murals on Miracle Mile Exit
The murals at the I-10 exit to Miracle Mile, westbound

Ocottillo Mural- Miracle Mile Exit

Miracle Mile Exit Mural Westbound

These are just a few we saw.  The gallery of art along the freeway interchanges  are visual treats and sometimes referred to as “museums on the road”.  They may have distracted us a bit, but they always put a smile on my face and helped take away the boredom of driving. They also piqued are minds as to what story each was telling!




  1. Wow, how could you remember the exact location of these pics if you took them while zooming along? Very interesting! Robin now in NC

    • Funny you should ask – we went out with friends to Casa Vicente last night and enjoyed a bunch of tapas. Don’t worry, I got out of there before the entertainment started! Say hello to Jeanie –

  2. I definitely remember the one in your header picture and we’ve only been through Arizona once. I love this idea of making your interstates beautiful with art. Way to go Arizona and way to go you two for capturing so many of them and bringing them to us.

    • I have showcased only the Tucson area, I wonder what the Phoenix/Scottsdale looked like. If we come back this way again, I will capture more of what the AZ highways have done to make our drive less boring.

  3. I love them! They are so hard to photograph as you whiz along the highways but they make me smile and try to capture their spirit anyway. Thanks for doing a post on highway art. So many people just drive along past drab cement walls and overpasses, not realizing what can be done on these blank canvasses,

  4. You did a great job getting photos as you were flying by on the highways:) I love the hardwork that went into making the interchanges so attractive.

  5. I am so glad you showcased these works of art ML. I have thought about doing it myself but always had blurry pictures…yours are great!

  6. You captured quite a collection of highway art — and all while zooming by! I’m impressed — I’m always taking pics while Eric is driving, but rarely do they turn out well. So cool that Arizona supports art on the highways.

    • I skipped this church the first time and was glad this time I made sure i visited it. And yes you have to go there and admire the impressive restoration work. It’s a gem tuck away in a reservation.

  7. We drove to Vegas for Thanksgiving, driving through northern Arizona by car for the first time, and we loved the scenery along the way, seeing some similar sites to those you shared. Loved all your photos! 😉

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