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    Public art not only beautifies an area or town, it also draws visitors. And in the U.S. Western states public art is very much focused on it's identity and history. This makes a fascinating, interesting and fun way to discover more about places, big or small.


    Boots sculptures in Chyenne, WYTwo of the large boots in the 'These Boots are made for Talking' art project
    dotted around Cheyenne, Wyoming

    Cheyenne, Wyo., boasts 'These Boots are made for Talking' - a trail of cowboy boots decorated by local artists depicts the history of the city. A brochure, or an app you can download on your phone (call 310-316-0067), gives you the location and story behind each boot. The town also features sculptures of horses, the greatest friend to man and a necessity to explore the West.

    Piano art with player in Chyenne, WYAn unknown pianist plays for the crowds at the 'Play me' piano in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

    A very cool public art piece is the 'Play Me' piano in Cheyenne's main square. 'Play Me' started in a small town in Texas and has spread further afield. Piano's are painted by local artists and then placed in public places. Anyone with the talent is welcome to sit down and tinkle the ivories for everyone's enjoyment. While I was in town a man who had been wandering around the farmer's market sat down and entertained us for nearly half an hour. Such an enjoyable experience, it was lovely to see the children reacted so positively.

    Mural of Navahjo Code Talkers in WWIIThe mural by artist Be Sargent in Gallup, New Mexico honoring the Navajo Code Talkers
    who were an amazing and courageous part of the victory in WWII.

    Gallup, N.M., unfortunately is usually a stop to fill up on gas and head on down the Interstate. This is a pity and a mistake I hope folks will correct. The town has fabulous murals, they supply a detailed brochure with locations and descriptions at the visitor's center.
    But the pride of all their murals is the jawdropping W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration started by President F.D. Roosevelt in the 1930's) mural in the old historic courthouse, which was also built by the W.P.A.. The mural was designed and painted by artist Lloyd Moylan. An epic soft hued mural, it fills the entire court room and tells the intriging history of New Mexico from the beginning of time. Two copies of a newpaper article on opposing walls explain the whole piece step by step. I was lucky the day I visited, the court was not in session. An officer let me in, showed me the newspaper article and said "enjoy yourself, take your time." I most definitely did. The mural is stunning in detail and is such beautiful art work.

    WPA mural of Afrtican PrinceA section of the W.P.A. Mural depicts the fascinating legend of an African prince
    in the area inside the historic court house in Gallup, N.M.

    As if that isn't enough, there is a fabulous collection of W.P.A. paintings by various artists lining the walls outside the court room. Gallup has about 90 of these gorgeous W.P.A. paintings in a couple of locations in Gallup, including the library, the county school district and storage. You need time to absorb the mural and the paintings in the passage. They truly are a treasure not to be missed.

    A section of the W.P.A. Mural depicts miners and explorers inside the
    historic court house in Gallup, N.M.

    Nevada isn't only about gambling and glitsy shows. There is a strong focus on the arts. Little Caliente, a small town in South East Nevada is not to be outdone as they strive to prove size doesn't matter. They have a beautiful classic old railroad station in the center of town and across a dusty lot is the Boxcar Museum cheerfully painted with murals showing all the peoples in the area - the original Native American inhabitants of the area, European settlers and the old town. And they love it when you stop by and say hello.

    Mural of old time western dancePart of the mural on the Boxcar Museum in Caliente, Nev.,
    shows an old time dance in the town back in the day.

    Sioux Falls, S.D., holds an annual sculpture walk. Each year they display approximately 40-60 sculptures throughout the downtown area. All the sculptures are for sale during the year and the organization actively promotes them. This is important, artists must be paid for all public art. The public vote throughout the year for their favorite and at the years end, the city buys the winner of the public vote, which is then placed in a permanent position in the park around the falls or downtown. It is truly uplifting to see a city support a project like this and to see the high level of work submitted.

    sculpture of young woman and greyhoundOne of the popular sculptures, 'Who rescued who?' by artist Lorri Acott
    in Sioux Falls, S.D. In the 2016 sculpture walk. 

    The city produces an excellent brochure featuring a walking tour of the sculptures each year and docent tours are available for groups of 6 or more. More information can be obtained online or from the visitors center at the Chamber of Commerce downtown. Sculptures can also be found in the lobbies of a couple of the banks, at the Sioux Falls regional airport, at the convention center and on 41st Street. In addition there is a USF Campus Sculpture Walk and another at Avera McKennan Hospital & Health Center.

    Sculpture of a burro One of the many burros of tiny Carrizozo, N.M. art district.

    This is just a small sample of the variety of public art on show. There are towns, big and small, featuring various public art projects like tiny Carrizozo, N.M. has colorful burros dotted about town including on top of buildings. Or if you're a certain age you just have to go stand on the corner in Winslow, Ariz., but don't miss visiting La Posada Hotel just a couple of blocks away. They feature the large scale impressive paintings and murals of artist Tina Mion.

    Keep an eye out as you travel and follow the stories public art tells you. Compliment a town when you can, the more towns hear how much travelers enjoy their public art the more they will focus on it.

    sculpture of standing on the corner in 'winslow, azWho could resist some fun and not take part in Standin' on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona?

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    Public Disclosure-- Please Read
    I recently learned of a FTC law requiring web sites to let their readers know if any of the stories are "sponsored" or compensated.  American Roads and Global Highways' feature writers are professional travel writers. As such we are frequently invited on press trips, also called fam trips. Most of the articles here are results of these trips. On these trips most of our lodging, dining, admissions fees and often plane fare are covered by the city or firm hosting the trip. It is an opportunity to visit places we might not otherwise be able to visit and bring you a great story. However, no one tells us what to write about those places. All opinions are 100% those of the author of that feature column.


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