I've lived in Flagstaff, AZ, since 2003, where I'm an active member of the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team and an avid hiker.
Flagstaff Is A Small City With A Big Appreciation For Public Art
My husband and I always enjoy a good art gallery, and we rarely miss a Flagstaff First Friday Art Walk, when local galleries and other businesses that display artwork stay open late. But we thought we'd focus for a change on art we often walk or drive right by -- the outdoor, public art around town. So we decided one Sunday morning to go for a long walk, taking pictures of the art we'd find along the way.
And we found a lot! Some works we knew were there, while others were unexpected discoveries as we'd round a corner and say, "Hey, there's one!" Like an alleyway mural in the Southside neighborhood and an abstract metal sculpture tucked away in a courtyard on the Northern Arizona University campus. And I know there are pieces we've yet to find, which I'll add when we do.
So if you'd like to take a virtual tour of the open-air artwork around the city of Flagstaff -- some by world-renowned artists, others by those who are just locally-known, some by volunteers and some by anonymous artists, come along with me here.
And put your artistic thinking caps on while you're at it, because I'll want your input on several pieces along the way....
The photo above is one of several PAWS sculptures from the Coconino Coalition for Children & Youth, this one located in Heritage Square, Downtown Flagstaff
The Lyle Motley Mural At Absolute Bikes
Voted "Best Public Art" by Flagstaff Live in theEditor's Choice Awards
This is one of my favorites, created in 2007 by mountain-biking artist, Lyle Motley, who also painted a mural for Absolute Bikes' Salida, Colorado store in 1999.
It took Lyle two months to complete the Flagstaff mural. We love the details, like the bandaids on the biker's knee and elbow. A closer look along the mural will reveal additional fun details.
The Whole Mural....
A Time Lapse Video - The mural's creation
This is cool! The video was taken over the two months it took Lyle Motley to paint the mural.
Joe Sorren Murals
Artist Joe Sorren, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Time and Rolling Stone magazines, grew up in Arizona and started painting in 1991. In 1993, he earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Northern Arizona University.
One of his best-known public art pieces is the 40-foot by 30-foot mural at Heritage Square in Flagstaff, which was completed in September, 2000, after nine months of work. Painted on the curved wall of a parking garage, the mural serves as a backdrop for the Pesto Brothers Restaurant patio.
Titled, "The Veridic Gardens of Effie Leroux," the mural depicts a magical, surreal pond and picnic scene. Effie Leroux "was an early 20th century philanthropist, who created veridic gardens - peaceful places for people to experience with all five senses the possibility of a fuller life." (Quote from SeekingCenter.com ... no longer active)
Several other Joe Sorren murals enliven building walls around downtown Flagstaff, including the Noah's ark painting on the Midgely Building and Flagstaff scenes on the Old Town Shoppes (shown below).
To see more of Joe Sorren's work, visit his website at JoeSorren.com
Joe Sorren's Mural in Heritage Square, titled, "The Veridic Gardens of Effie Leroux"
Sorren's painting of Noah and his ark on the Midgely Building
Joe Sorren painted this (fading) series of murals above the Old Town Shoppes, formerly JC Penney.
The Centennial Walk Mural at the Flagstaff Visitor Center
Painted by Navajo artist Redwing Ted Nez in 2010, the 60-foot long Centennial Mural depicts 100 years of Flagstaff history. The mural commemorates the State of Arizona Centennial on February 14, 2012. You can see this impressive piece of public art at the Visitor Center and Amtrak Station along Old Route 66 in downtown Flagstaff.
Read an article about the Centennial Walk Mural and the artist from the Arizona Daily Sun.
A close-up of the Flagstaff Centennial Walk Mural
Louis Buchetto Mural On McNabb Jewelers
Fun, colorful and optimistic
Artist Louis Buchetto at one time had his father-daughter gallery and studio a few doors away from this mural, which was donated by the artist and his friends. When completed in 2004, a public party was held and people from all over painted more than 150 flowers along the bottom of the wall.
"When You See Only The Dark Know The Light Will Soon Return"
The mural on the side of McNabb's has changed (2012). This scene is by Mural Joe.
More of Mural Joe's new painting on the side of McNabb's.
Bold colors abound
Flagstaff's Southside neighborhood sometimes gets a bad rap, with some dilapidated, abandoned buildings and empty, often trash-filled lots, and some dumpy rentals owned by absentee landlords ... BUT that's only a small part of the story of what's up on the south side of the tracks, just across from downtown.
Southside is home to Northern Arizona University, the popular and long-standing Macy's European Coffeehouse, numerous excellent restaurants like La Bella Via, Beaver Street Brewery, Dara Thai and Cafe Ole, Vertical Relief climbing gym, an eclectic array of shops and clubs, and a community garden.
Not to mention some vibrant public artwork, including these colorful murals:
An eye-catching "graffiti mural" on the side of a tattoo parlor. Honestly, I have no idea what it says. But it's pretty!
Part of a series of murals by the Native Movements Artist Collective, 2008
A surreal mural in a Southside neighborhood alleyway (Love the added touch of the old couch someone dumped in front of it.)
A cowgirl dreams of a faraway fantasy land in this framed mural on San Francisco Street.
A mural on a restaurant which used to be Peruvian but is now Greek. The mural goes with the former. Wonder if they'll change it.
A mural on Phoenix Ave. in the Southside area of Flagstaff
Murals At Flagstaff's Sawmill County Park
Built on a "brownfield" where one of Flagstaff's first sawmills was located from 1908 to 1993, Sawmill Multicultural Art & Nature Park features not only a large play area for children but also a small amphitheater for public entertainment and presentations. The backdrop of the stage is an 8-foot high, 65-feet long "art wall" with a rotating mural, changing four times a year. Residents and community groups are chosen to paint the mural after submitting proposals to the Outreach Coordinator at 928-679-8000. (Paint and supplies are provided for them.)
The current art wall mural combines two local organizations, the Americorps Youth In Action project, led by Supervisor Liz Archuleta, on the left panel and Literacy Volunteers of Coconino County on the middle and right panels.
The backside of the curved art wall is covered by a three-part, permanent mosaic by Geoffrey Gross.
For more information on Sawmill County Park, adjacent to the Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, see Coconino.az.gov.
A mural on behalf of Literacy Volunteers -- "Reading is the road to freedom, adventure, success, happy endings."
"Legacy," a mosaic by Geoffrey Gross, 2003 --"For each man kills the thing he loves." (Oscar Wilde)
More Flagstaff Murals
I can't leave out the 35-foot Holstein cow by Melanie Thomson-Myers of Phoenix, painted on the Flagstaff Furniture Barn store -- now Natural Grocers as of August, 2012 -- once an armory and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mural, Thomson-Myers' first commissioned work, continues around the left side of the building--a closer to life-sized farm scene.
A History of the "Furniture Barn Cow"
- The Flagstaff Furniture Barn / Natural Grocers Big Cow Mural
The building and the cow, then and now
A Mural Painted by Foreign Tourists
And the mural below, designed and directed by local artist, David Grandon, was painted in the summer of 2002 by six women from Germany, exploring the country with International Adventure Tours in Utah. They were part of a larger group, doing various volunteer projects as they traveled.
A mural in memory of a famous local photographer on the side of the Peace Surpluss building on Route 66
I noticed this mural in October, 2010, downtown. I'm not sure how long it had been there.
Another downtown mural I found in October, 2010
The sculpture you see here is called "The Gandy Dancer," by Clyde "Ross" Morgan, installed October 21, 2000. The plaque states:
"Section crews were the laborers who built the railroads in the beginning and have continued throughout the years to maintain them. These crews were most efficient in moving heavy sections of rails when they all worked in unison. To accomplish this, they sometimes used songs or some other method of keeping a beat. The tools used were manufactured by the Gandy Tool Company, hence the term 'Gandy Dancer.' The tools shown here are the spike maul, rail gauge, wrench, claw bar and rail tongs."
There are several other bronze sculptures around downtown as shown here:
One of several bronze sculptures by Lou Bader, this one part of the "Frontier Adventure" multi-piece display
Another piece from "Frontier Adventure," donated by artist Lou Bader and his wife, Emma Jean
The smallest piece of "Frontier Adventure" at the base of a tree
Another Lou Bader work at the Church of the Nativity
Sculpture At Northern Arizona University
The NAU campus is a really nice place to go for a walk on a sunny, summer day, especially on a Sunday when few people are around. Steve and I zigzagged through north and south campuses, hunting for art in nooks and crannies, courtyards, and open, grassy areas that will be filled with students in the fall.
And we sure found a lot of outdoor public art during our walk. I'll bet we probably missed some, too, so if and when we find more, I'll add it here.
In this photo (above-right), it's not a very tall man you're seeing, standing in front of the NAU J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome. This is Louie the Lumberjack, the school's mascot. There's a similar, cedar Louie, standing 10 feet tall and weighing in at 990-pounds, standing outside of Granny's Closet (formerly The Lumberjack), one of Flagstaff's oldest restaurants, located on South Milton/Route 66.
And here's the rest of the art we found on the grounds of NAU:
World-renowned artist R.C. Gorman created this bust of a Navajo Codetalker, 1995.
The bronze that caused a bit of a stir when it was first erected, due to this clean-cut lumberjack's bare chest
A Campfire Among the Pines
An untitled bronze and limestone sculpture by Peter Parkany, 1996, located outside NAU's Cline Library
My husband, an NAU alum, calls this sculpture "French Fries," but I'm told the real title is "Standing Waves."
The American Legion & Department of Arizona's Boys State 50th Anniversary sculpture by Thomas H. Oliver, dedicated June 6, 1996
Hmm ... what is this one about?
Bronze entitled, "Through the Roof," by Randy Kuehn, 1999
A mushroom sculpture, with little metal disks below the "cap" that jingle in the breeze
The heart and vein sculpture outside the NAU Rec Center
It's a ... uh ... what is it?
"Seeing the New Dawn" by Jason Lanecan, commissioned for the NAU Centennial in 1997
An untitled abstract sculpture we almost didn't see. It's hidden by part of the building.
A tree stump someone fashioned into an owl (sadly destroyed by vandals during Spring Break, 2012)
An assemblage near the NAU's tozan kilns
Work By Don Bendel
A master ceramicist
Along with his Japanese friend, Yukio Yamamoto, long-time NAU Ceramics professor Don Bendel brought the Anagama and Noborigama Tozan kilns to the United States and found a home for them at the University.
Near the kiln, you can see these large, ceramic-tiled walls designed by Don Bendel in 1996 for the Tozan kilns' 10th anniversary and dedicated to the memory of ceramics student, Aaron M. Macy. The tiles were made by laying the clay out in a big sheet and having people walk on it, creating the texture that you see. Then he clay was cut into squares, fired and assembled on the walls.
Don Bendel's walls of ceramics at the site of the NAU tozan kilns
Sculpture At Coconino Community College
While most of the art at CCC is inside the building, there are three sculptures located within the courtyard walls out front. And those walls themselves have artistic significance. Notice how they look much the same as the walls you just saw.
During a Wood-fired Ceramic Mural Project Workshop in July, 2008 with Don Bendel, participants walked barefoot through a 60-foot clay path, then carved the walkway into square tiles and fired them in the Noborogama Tozan Kiln on the NAU campus. The tiles were mounted in a 4-foot by 60-foot bronze, brown and copper-textured strip along the cinder block wall art patio.
To read more about the project, read Ooze Into CCC History At The July 8 Clay Stomp.
And within those walls, these are the sculptures we discovered on our self-guided Sunday public art walking tour:
A bronze and steel sculpture in the CCC courtyard
I don't know how to interpret this piece, also in the CCC courtyard.
Sculpture At Sawmill County Park
In Sawmill Park, located at 703 East Sawmill Road near the law enforcement complex, you'll see free-standing sculpture along the walkways. The works are jury-selected for a one-year rotation, with sculptures available for purchase at the end of that period.
This photo (right) is a piece called "Don Quixote" by Geoffrey H. Gross, the artist who made the tile mosaic on the back of the art wall. It's a bronze, steel and granite sculpture.
The artist's statement:
"In the end we are the sum of parts. These parts being composed of the stories of our past, our ambition for the future, and the contact with the ideas and stories that press in close around us. It seems to me that we, ourselves, are not a gleaming whole, but rather, an assemblage of experiences and emotion. Yet, this patchwork surges forward as a unit in its quest for wholeness. Don Quixote was searching for the stories about himself that he felt would make him whole, but then again aren't we all?" (From: Coconino County Parks & Recreation's Sawmill County Park's Sculpture Walk)
Below is another sculpture we saw at the park, again by Geoffrey Gross. What do you think it means?
I'm sure this sculpture is making a statement.
One of many PAWS sculptures around town from the Coconino Coalition for Children & Youth
Is It Sculpture?
Well, no matter. Art it is.
What you see here is a downtown alley window maybe a foot from the ground, with an artistic metal grate. Not shown is the rest of the lower wall with its brightly-painted design. I don't know who created this, but it was one of our fun discoveries along the walk.
And below is an entryway we thought we'd include, made by Schaafsma Design:
An artistic archway at the entrance to the Flagstaff Xeriscape Garden
Is It Art?
The metal archway above ...what do you think? We see it as art.
What Is Public Art?
This short video explores the definition and shows some examples.
© 2009 Deb Kingsbury
Do You Enjoy Public Art? - Do you wish there were murals on buildings all over? And more sculpture around town?
RinchenChodron on May 22, 2013:
Yes, very much! Flag seems to have an abundance of it. Really enjoyed your photos.
anonymous on July 20, 2012:
I live in flag and have seen many of these in person. They are pretty cool. The nature is equally, if not even more, impressive.
Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on March 20, 2012:
@anonymous: Oh, that's a shame about the owl. :( I added a note to the photo above. And, no, I'm not familiar with the Elden sculptures. I'll have to look into that. There are a number of new murals and other public art pieces I have to catch up on.
anonymous on March 20, 2012:
Excellent compilation. Do you know about the sculptures on Mt. Elden?
I was on your site today to look at the owl sculpture on NAU north campus that was destroyed sometime over spring break 2012.
Close2Art LM on October 31, 2011:
That's some great public art, I call it graffiti, blessed, great lens...:)rob
andreaberrios lm on October 24, 2011:
Wow what a beautiful place!! I love all the art.
dahlia369 on October 23, 2011:
What a beautiful town you live in. I especially like the Southside murals, so lively an colorful. Placed in that part of the city, they are even more precious. You are So blessed! :)
Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on October 21, 2011:
Flagstaff looks like a really colorful and artsy town. I love the lumberjack sculpture!
Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on October 21, 2011:
Wow, Pendleton SC doesn't have anything like this. Impressive
CruiseReady from East Central Florida on June 24, 2011:
I enjoy the murals particularly when I am in a different city. Sometimes, though, too many tax dollars are spend on this kind of thing when there should be strict budgeting going on.
Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on June 08, 2011:
Thanks for sharing all the visuals...beautiful! Blessed.
ewguru lm on February 03, 2011:
now I need to go back to Flagstaff
ArtConscience on November 01, 2010:
This is a great lens and there are some amazing pieces of art on it. Thanks for sharing them. I'd be interested to know what you, and your readers, think of The Cloak of Conscience - Anna Chromy's new piece, which is due to be finished in January. It is carved from the largest ever block of marble taken from the Michelangelo quarry in Cararra, and visitors to the studio where she's applying the finishing touches are swooned by it. Do a search and get a pic for this lens... (or check my lens on it ;) Thanks.
theclickfactory on October 31, 2010:
Sawmill County Park :) Sounds quite interesting.
anonymous on February 21, 2010:
Public art always generates a lot of response, which is in part its function. I am glad someone is paying attention to the art in Flagstaff. Good lens, good job, good karma.
Geeve on January 28, 2010:
Great lens Deb,
I have lensrolled you to Graffiti Art.
Loved the public sculpture as well.
anonymous on December 07, 2009:
Hi - The real name of the "French Fries," "Crinkle Cuts," or "Standing Waves" sculpture at NAU is "The Benchmark." The small bronze plaque bearing the names of the sculpture and artist Tim O'Hara dated 1984 is located on the far side of the base almost opposite of where the photographer was standing. NAU Alum.
Dianne Loomos on July 17, 2009:
Beautiful stuff. Love the murals.
Frankie Kangas from California on July 14, 2009:
Fantastic! Thanks for sharing this wonderful art and location. Bear hugs, Frankster
Samantha Lynn from Missouri on July 14, 2009:
Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on July 13, 2009:
This is a wonderful lens with wonderful art. What a fabulous art loving culture that is alive there! Blessed by an angel.
anonymous on July 13, 2009:
It was fun, running around town taking pictures with you and learning more about all this art. Maybe we should move on to Sedona. :)