Summer Art Travels

A travel photo essay

Pittsburgh Andy Warhol bridge

Summer Art Travels

Hitting the road this summer? Don’t forget the art. Even if you’re not traveling to New York or Paris or some other bastion of high culture, you can work some art into your travels almost anywhere. Here are a few ideas of art activities and places that add fun, creativity and inspiration to your summer trip.

Artists’ Hometowns

Most towns of any size have produced at least an artist or two. Find out who grew up in the town you’re visiting, or who lived there as an adult. Visiting Cape Cod? Tour Edward Gorey’s house. If you’re in Pittsburgh, go to the Andy Warhol Museum and walk across the Andy Warhol Bridge.

Public Art

Sioux Falls

Wandering through any downtown, you’re likely to find sculptures. But some towns emphasize public displays of art more than others. If you visit Sioux Falls, South Dakota between May and September, you can compare the work of sculptors from around the country, then vote for their favorite. Judges choose about 70 to 80 sculptures each year. Selected artists deliver their sculptures in the spring, loaning them to Sioux Falls for the year. Local businesses sponsor the sculptures, which are displayed on pedestals made of local pink quartzite or on concrete pads. Artists gain exposure, Sioux Falls gets a great attraction and citizens enjoy the art.

Folk Art Installations

God Mountain Salton Sea

Big city galleries have installations. Small towns and the backwoods are full of eccentrics who make their own galleries in their backyards. These include places like Houston’s Orange Show, a backyard spectacle featuring the work of mail carrier Jeff McKissack and Salvation Mountain, an amazing heap by California’s Salton Sea engineered by the late Leonard Knight.

Borrego Sculptures

Camp by Art

You can’t do this everywhere, but if you visit the Anza Borrego Desert in Southern California, you can camp underneath between sabertooth tigers. The late Dennis Avery, heir to the office label fortune, commissioned artist Ricardo Breceda to sculpt prehistoric animals that once roamed the desert. Breceda originally started sculpting out of rebar, wire and metal to entertain his daughter. Now more than 100 of his hulking beasts are sprinkled across the Borrego desert.

Bergstrom Mahler Museum

Unusual Art Museums

Even small towns often feature strange and wondrous museums. And while something like a collection of paperweights might not strike you as exciting, the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in the little town of Neenah, Wisconsin has a gorgeous collection of vintage paperweights, Victorian glass baskets and exhibits by contemporary glass artists.


Hidden Collections

Sometimes a really amazing display of art might be just off the beaten track. Everybody who visits San Diego knows about the zoo and Sea World, but how many have heard of Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, just up the road in Escondido? This sculpture garden was designed by internationally renowned French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, and was completed after her death in 2001. Round walls, 120 feet in diameter and topped by giant mosaic serpents, enclose the garden. Inside, you’ll find a maze of jagged black, white and glass mosaic walls, and eight large totem figures, ranging from 11 to 21 feet high, surrounding the main sculpture: Queen Califia herself, standing astride a 13-foot high, five-legged eagle. Underneath the eagle sits a golden egg.

Hands on Art Studio

Do it Yourself

While looking at art is fun, making art is even better. Lots of cities have do-it-yourself pottery studios these days. For a deluxe experience, visit Hands On Art in Door County, Wisconsin. Here the staff will help you make fused glass and metal sculptures, mosaics, pottery and jewelry. You’ll work inside an art barn on an old Wisconsin farm complete with farm animals. Plan to spend the whole day. They’ll even ship your art home for you if it doesn’t fit in your luggage.


Even airports have turned into galleries. Take a stroll past the Sunglass Hut and fast food court and check out what’s on the walls. Sometimes you’ll stumble across something really entertaining, like “Circling,” a 3-D interactive labyrinth by artist Christopher Janney complete with sound effects. It’s made from 100 sheets of colored glass, some up to 12 feet high.

Get Your Photo Taken with a Controversial Piece


Some art offends because people think it’s obscene. Sometimes, like graffiti, an artist decides to decorate somebody else’s property. Whichever, it makes a good backdrop for a family portrait. The Surfing Madonna mosaic has been a controversial piece in Southern California. Artist Mark Patterson spent nine months crafting the Virgin of Guadalupe on a surfboard before installing it under a highway overpass. This made it both graffiti and religious art on a government-owned road. The mosaic has been moved several times.

—Text and photos by Teresa Bergen,