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Surprise In The Desert

Written by Jim Hinckley

March 27, 2023

Kingman, Arizona is a dusty, desert crossroads town that is full of surprises. Forever immortalized in the song about getting your kicks on Route 66, Kingman has from its inception been a transportation hub. In fact it was established as a construction camp for the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad.

And that railroad followed the course of the Beale Wagon Road, which followed a Native American trade route. The National Old Trails Road, Route 66, and then I40 followed the railroad. It isn’t a surprise to learn that tangible links to this history abound in the historic business district and along the Route 66 corridor.

What is surprisng for the first time visitor is the discovery that Kingman has a diverse and vibrant arts community. There are galleries, a theater company, and arts educational venues.

At the heart of the thriving and growing arts community is the Kingman Center for The Arts, a non-profit dedicated to the arts and related education as well as performances.

Kingman Center for The Arts is involved with three exciting projects. One is the transformation of the long shuttered State Theater into the The Beale Street Theater, a performing arts venue for live performances, concerts, and film festivals.

The tentative date for completion of the Beale Street Theater is 2025. The complex that originally included offices, a barbershop, and liquor store as well as the State Theater was built in 1948.

Housed in a former bank and post office built in 1912, the ArtHub is an art gallery as well as education center. Disney Musicals in Schools is an introductory live theater program for elementary schools.

Throughout the district are a diverse array of murals and sculptures, and work by acclaimed international artists. At Dunton Motors Dream Machines, a dealership that opened along Route 66 in 1946, is a detailed diorama of Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner created by the late Dutch artist Willem Bor, a founding member of the Dutch Route 66 Association.

On depot plaza at the historic railroad depot on Route 66 is a bronze statue of artist, author, historian and humorist Jim Hinckley that was created by sculptress J. Anne Butler. Butler is an internationally acclaimed artist that works in porcelain and bronze, and under commission created pieces for the queen of England.

Matt Phillips, owner of Legacy Signs, is an artist in his own right. His artistry is made manifest in the neon signage, restored or created, that is adding a coloful glow to the historic district.

Artist Sara Peterson is a driving force in the city’s art community. On April 2, 2021, she opened Avant Print & Frame transformed the dream of serving the fine arts community in northwestern Arizona with giclée fine art reproduction and museum quality custom archival framing services into a reality.

There are lots of surprises awaiting discovery in Kingman. Add some zest to your next visit and discover the vibrant arts district with the narrated self guided historic district walking tour that starts at the depot.

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