The road trip has had a rebirth in 2020. With health experts still advising against air travel unless necessary, more people are choosing to hit the road to get their travel fix, especially this fall. There are leaf-peeping trips to take, camping to do (solo or not) and national parks to see. If you’ve done all that already, an art-themed road trip might be your next adventure.
With that in mind, we have created a list of unique outdoor art installations across the United States, divided by region to help with planning. The 4 groupings can be done as one long road trip or broken into smaller day or weekend trips.
Of course, before you go, there are restrictions to check and safety precautions to take. And while many of these pieces are permanent installations, others are temporary, so be sure to verify exhibition dates before packing up the car.
Phoenix: “Her Secret is Patience” by Janet Echelman
The signature landmark of Phoenix’s Civic Space Park is a 145-foot-wide aerial sculpture by Janet Echelman that consists of flexible polyester netting in a three-dimensional vortex shape. It resembles the flowers from saguaros, a native cactus species, and the state’s infamous summer monsoon clouds. The piece is best viewed at night, when the sculpture is illuminated with colors that gradually change with the seasons. (424 N Central Ave.)
George, Wash.: “Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies” by David Govedare
A sculpture of 15 life-size galloping horses covers a 200-foot span of a hilltop in Grant County in central Washington along Interstate 90. The artwork is by sculptor David Govedare of Chewelah, Wash. Driving eastbound on I-90 offers the best view of the piece. After crossing the Columbia River on the Vantage Bridge, there is a viewpoint exit where a rough, steep quarter-mile path leads to the sculpture. (Interstate 90 at Grant County line)
Salt Lake City: “Point of View” by Aaron T. Stephan
There are 150 custom road signs arranged together in front of the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City with a red circle that says “YOU ARE HERE.” The circle is connected to an arrow pointing to a red bench. The signs are covered in contradictory words and phrases including “SINK FLOAT” or “NEAR OR FAR.” The public art installation is by Maine artist Aaron T. Stephan and is part of the percent-for-art-legislation, which mandates that up to one percent of government spending for new buildings go toward public art. (100 S W Temple St.)
Birmingham, Ala.: “LightRails” by Bill FitzGibbons
One of the highlights of Birmingham’s city-center revitalization project is a rainbow-colored LED light installation by San Antonio artist Bill FitzGibbons in the historic 1931 art deco viaduct near Railroad Park on 18th Street. The project was commissioned by the city’s economic development organization, REV Birmingham, who later added three similar installations at 14th, 19th and 20th streets. The light show runs from dusk until dawn to encourage pedestrian traffic downtown. (Intersection of railroad tracks with 18th and 14th St.)
Charlotte: “Metalmorphosis” by David Cerny
The focal point of the 200-acre Whitehall Corporate Center Campus is a metal statue of a human head that doubles as a fountain called Metalmorphosis by Czech artist David Cerny. The 14-ton stainless steel statue spins and contorts its shape before returning to its original form. The corporate complex has three other outdoor sculptures and is accessible to the public. (3701 Arco Corporate Dr.)
Alexandria, Va.: “Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies” by Olalekan Jeyifous
The second installation of Alexandria’s annual public art series features the work of artist Olalekan Jeyifous, who weaves the city’s African American history from the 17th century to the 20th century with the era’s industrial and merchant history. The installation is on display until November and features a ground mural that highlights patterns and African American traditions used in quilting and textiles. The mural includes several colorful metal profiles that double as seating areas. (1 King St.)
New York City: “Brick House” by Simone Leigh
Simone Leigh’s “Brick House,” a 16-foot-tall bronze bust of a Black woman, is the inaugural commission for the Plinth, the first space dedicated to rotating contemporary art commissions on the High Line, a public park built on a historic elevated rail line. The sculpture will be on display until the spring of 2021 and incorporates architectural forms from a variety of world regions. (High Line at the Spur at 30th & 10th Ave.)
Various Locations: “Liberty Bell” by Nancy Baker Cahill
An augmented reality installation titled “Liberty Bell” by Los Angeles-based artist Nancy Baker Cahill is on view through July 2021 at six different historic sites across the United States, including Boston, Queens, D.C., Selma, Ala., Charleston, S.C., and Philadelphia.
To view the installation, which features a 3-D animation of an abstract red, white and blue swaying bell, viewers need to download the free 4th Wall App. On average, the viewing area for the installations is 37,000 square feet, making it easy to socially distance.
Randolph, Vt.: “Whale Dance” by Jim Sardonis
For 10 years, a granite statue of two dancing whale tails stood on a scenic hillside in the small town of Randolph, Vt., before it was moved to a new location. Since the town residents missed the statue, sculptor Jim Sardonis created a larger copy of his original piece in bronze called “Whale Dance” that was installed in the same location in July 2019. (Exit 4 on Interstate 89)
West and Texas
Austin: “Open Road” by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt
Located in just steps from Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, this alfresco dining art installation by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt features exaggerated furniture, including a metal table with lace trim surrounded by benches and four giant treelike chandeliers that light up at night. This social sculpture is part of the city’s Art in Public Places program, which encourages visitors to take a self-guided walking tour through all the public artwork in downtown Austin. (200 Sandra Muraida Way)
Dallas: “Eye” by Tony Tasset
A 30-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture of an eyeball with a blue iris by Chicago-artist Tony Tasset stands in the gardens of the five-star Joule Hotel, known for its dramatic art collection, in downtown Dallas. While the sculpture is located behind a small fence, it can be easily photographed from outside. For a closer view, contact the hotel for access. (1601 Main St.)
Denver: “I See What You Mean” by Lawrence Argent
There is a 40-foot-tall blue bear standing on its hind legs peering curiously inside the Denver Convention Center, with its front paws resting on the glass. Artist Lawrence Argent’s inspiration came from several places — his son’s toys, a newspaper photograph of a bear looking through a window and a drought that occurred during the brainstorming process that attracted bears into the city. (700 14th St.)