Art along Arizona’s highways

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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

2016-01-29-AZ-1370788

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!

 

Next up:  Hollywood in the desert



 

26 thoughts on “Art along Arizona’s highways

  1. 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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  2. We like that interstate art, too. The burst mode! Thanks for reminding me. That’s why my out the window shots are blurry.

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  3. 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.

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    • 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.

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  4. This is definitely one of the nicest things about driving AZ metropolitan highways! Always makes me smile!

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  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!

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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,

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  8. 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.

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    • 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.

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    • 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 –
      ~Steve

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  9. We rode our bikes by the bicycle church today. Another piece of interesting art made of bike parts. You did a good job of finding all of those.

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    • At first I simply admired what I saw and then you see more and more of this beautiful art that I decided I start snapping and make a collection.

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

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    • We drove on I-10 and exited on those ramps several times to go about our business. And of course I research on them too!

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