We finally found an opportunity to stop briefly in Ann Arbor for a corned beef sandwich at the senses-overwhelming Zingerman’s deli. As good as I remembered. Also got a burger on the way home at a place we’ve meant to try — Redamak’s in New Buffalo near the Michigan/Indiana state line.
Category Archives: Discoveries: trust me
It turns out that the great mural we discovered last December inside a new welcome center in northern Missouri along Interstate 35 is not the only pit stop art around. At a time when the future of the highway rest area is shaky (with some cash-strapped states closing their pit stops), some states – including Iowa and Texas – have invested money to spruce up their rest areas and welcome centers by incorporating themed art (murals, mosaics and sculptural elements) into the building design.
This includes 13 recently art-adorned rest areas along Iowa interstates – part of the state’s art-in-transit program – and apparently there are more in the works. All of which has gotten me even more interested in the topic – the where, how and especially why states are bothering (answer: to discourage graffiti, promote tourism, and enhance the safety breaks of long-haul drivers.) I say more power to them – and if it puts some talented artists to work during this lousy economy, all the better! Maybe we should have a new WPA along the highway…..
I know, I know – I should be blogging today about the thwarted terrorism attack at the airport of my youth (my native Detroit). But I’m far more excited to share my latest unlikely discovery – a beautiful new mural we chanced upon inside – of all places – the spanking new welcome center along Interstate 35 in the northern Missouri city of Eagleville.
Installed in September 2009, the mural fills a long wall inside the Eagleville Welcome Center (opened in February 2008) and is made of 600,000 pieces of multi-colored glass tile. An homage to Missouri history, culture, and topography, the mural has all kinds of scenes (the Missouri River, the Kansas City Jazz and Negro League Baseball Museums) and portraits (Jesse James, Harry Truman, Thomas Hart Benton) and cultural touchstones (from the American Bison to the Missouri River steamboat, Arabia.) Among other things, I learned that Walt Disney not only grew up on a farm near the small town of Marceline, Mo. (the Disneys’ barn is featured in the mural) but that the main streets in every Disney attraction are based on Marceline’s main street. Walt even recreated the barn on his home property in Los Angeles.
Apparently I am not the only one curious about the many images embedded in the mural, which was designed by a Washington State couple who won a competition to design the mural, funded through a federal grant. At the center, I picked up a very helpful 16-page pamphlet all about the mural – entitled “The Prairie Passage” – produced by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
I love finding art in unexpected places – and I love that someone bothered to perk up my drive through northern Missouri. This rest area is a far cry from the dreary ones I remember from the family road trips of my 1960’s youth. Which leads me to wonder – how much of this is going on at other interstate rest areas and welcome centers across the country? Is this effort on the rise or in decline? Which states or rest stops have the best public art installations? I have seen some great examples of rest area public art in Iowa along Interstate 80 (funded by the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Art-in-Transit program). Googling for more info, I chanced upon a terrific website about rest area history (www.restareahistory.org) that may answer some of my questions.