I’ve always been a big fan of street art, from murals to live performances. But what I like most is sculpture—massive pieces of work that you find in unpredictable places, from fountains to sidewalks to hanging off the sides of buildings.
What I love when I travel is to find that others embrace this art form as well. You never know where you’ll find this ‘outside’ art, from large cities like Seattle to small, out-of-the-way towns like Lenoir, North Carolina. Of all the great art I’ve discovered, here are a few of my favorites.
Seattle was one of the first cities to pass a "1% for art" ordinance in 1973. The funds raised by collecting 1 percent of the city’s construction budget has enabled it to invest in more than 400 permanently sited works of art in and around the city, as well as temporary exhibits. One of the most famous sculptures is Rachel the Pig, a 550-pound bronze piggy bank by artist Georgia Gerber that welcomes people to the Pike Place Market and has since become its mascot. The attractive bovine has raised more than $200,000 for the Pike Place Market Foundation, which supports preschools, clinics, senior centers and food banks. Rachel also spawned a Pigs on Parade event in 2011, with artists creating 100 pig sculptures as a way to raise even more money for local nonprofits.
While Galveston is certainly known as a spring break destination, it’s also a great place to see art. On a self-guided public art tour, you’ll come across an eclectic mix of sculptures, from the poignant 1900 Storm Memorial by David W. Moore that pays homage to victims of the storm that killed 6,000 people, to the more modern 10,000-pound welded and pressed steel sculpture, Birth, by Arthur Williams. The city also pays tribute to its beach heritage; sculptures include Beach Break Shark, a surfer sporting a shark’s head, and Crab and Shrimp, as well as dolphin, heron and fish tail works of art.
I’m admittedly biased about my hometown, but one of the reasons that I like the sculptures in the downtown area and on the North Shore is because they represent the people who helped make the city great. Of course there are sports heroes—Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner, and Willie Stargell—and also Art Rooney, the founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, smoking his trademark cigar. But there are also local icons like Mayor Richard Caliguiri, who helped lead Pittsburgh’s second Renaissance, taking it from a steel town to a bastion of science and higher learning. His statue, by artist Robert Berks, stands outside the City-County Building on Grant Street, where he continues to watch his beloved city. My favorite sculpture, also by Berks, is the massive 10-foot high tribute to Fred Rogers, who was born in Latrobe, PA, and went on to influence generations of children through his show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred sits along the Riverwalk downtown, tying his shoes in the same way in which he began every TV episode, greeting newcomers to town and delighting people of all ages.
A little off the beaten path, this city in Caldwell County at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina is a sculpture lover’s paradise. The fact that the city boasts a sculpture on almost every corner can be credited to the Caldwell Arts Council, which holds an annual Sculpture Celebration every year on the first Saturday after Labor Day in which artists from all over the country take part. The council began this festival in 1985, and Caldwell County has since been designated as having the largest collection of permanent public outdoor sculptures of any county of its population in the United States. The collection, which includes about 80 pieces, features as its centerpiece the massive 26-foot in diameter, 40,000 pound sculpture, Across the Grain, by world-renowned artist Thomas Sayre. Temporary exhibits can also be found around town as different galleries display their artists’ works on city streets.
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