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!