This week’s guest post is from off-beat traveler Neala Schwartzberg.
Many cities are graced with surfaces perfect for art. Sadly, few realize that those big blank walls are a canvas that can transform a building from something bland and soulless into something colorful, vibrant, even informative. But some cities have actively embraced the idea of walls-as-canvas and created unusual art in public spaces.
This small New Mexico town, just west of the border along I-40, is not only a stop along the fabled Route 66 it is also a destination of choice for those who love wall art. It boasts almost a dozen murals celebrating the history and culture of the city, often with a touch of whimsy.
These creative works of Sharon and Doug Quarles, adorn the sides of the town’s buildings turning brick into canvas. Their The Legendary Road is the largest mural on Route 66 dedicated to Route 66. It measures an impressive 14 ft. by 114 ft. Pick up a map of the murals at the visitors center or download the map. Then, visit Tucumcari and decide which your favorite is.
Since 2002, the city of Cuba Missouri has been officially known as Route 66 Mural City by act of the Missouri legislature. The goal was to have 12 outdoor murals on public buildings by 2007, the 150th anniversary of the city. And they did it. The murals depict universal themes from the city’s history. In homage to Route 66, there are also three panels on the side of one of the historic Phillips Petroleum Gas Stations.
A personal favorite is the one called Prosperity Corner, by the Hayes Shoe Store. It was started in July, 2003 by artist Kelly Poling from Chillicothe, Missouri. The murals depict the town’s history and heritage, and Prosperity Corner is no exception.
In the 1900s, Prosperity Corner drew citizens to meet, do business, and chat in front of what was then H.H. Tieman’s General Merchandise Store. Today, Hayes Shoe Store stands at that site. I stood with it, and it has become one of my bio photos.
The city of Chillicothe, Missouri must have liked the project quite a bit – they now also have a mural program.
The most extensive and gorgeous mural program in the country has been flourishing for years in the City of Brotherly Love. With over 3000 murals, it is the nation’s largest mural program, and so extensive that you can spend days appreciating the artistry and history.
Started in 1984, it is now part of Philadelphia’s public landscape and a source of inspiration and pride to thousands of residents, and wonder to visitors. It has also earned Philadelphia international recognition as City of Murals.
The largest mural, Moving Toward Your Dreams, by Donald Gensler, measures 27,000 square feet and is adjacent to Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The most unusual site for a mural is on the side of an industrial-sized gas tank at the Sunoco refinery. It’s called Philadelphia on a Half Tank by Paul Santoleri.
Given the number of murals and the size of the city, a sensible approach would be to take one of the tours. But as you stroll, enjoying the attractions of Philadelphia, keep your eyes open. I guarantee you’ll find wall art scattered around the city like flowers in a garden.
Neala Schwartzberg is a freelance writer, and the editor of Offbeat Travel Her passion? Anything just a little (or more than a little) off center; especially if it has overtones of art, culture, or history. You can follow her on Twitter.
Do you have favorite wall scenes from around the US or even the world that you want to share with us? We’d love to know. Maybe you can become a guest blogger for Santa Fe Travelers.