All along Route 66 there are manifestations of how a vibrant arts community can transform a blighted historic district, or even foster a renaissance that includes economic development. The dramatic revitalization of the historic business district in Pontiac, Illinois began with a mural marathon. With the addition of live theater performances, galleries, and museums such as the Museum of the Gilding Arts, buildings were renovated, and long empty storefronts were transformed into thriving businesses.
Initially diminutive Atlanta, Illinois became a destination for Route 66 enthusiasts with colorful murals that mimicked historic advertisements. The influx of travelers inspired community leaders to develop façade renovation initiatives and to transform vacant fields into parks with public art such as reclaimed “Muffler Men.”
In 1984, People’s Bank founded Viva Cuba, a beautification organization of local artists. The project was conceived to complement industrial development initiatives by making the town more attractive to company owners and potential new residents.
The first stage of the project was using regional artists to transform the quaint historic heart of Cuba, Missouri in the Missouri Ozarks into an outdoor gallery. Colorful murals that chronicled the towns rich history were added to store fronts, blank walls, and retaining walls. In 2002, Cuba was designated the “Route 66 Mural City” by the Missouri state legislature, and with the community embracing public art, Cuba developed a reputation as an “art friendly” town.
In Kingman, Arizona bisected by Beale Street and Andy Devine Avenue a dynamic arts community is transforming the old business district and Route 66 corridor. Kingman Center for The Arts, Kingman Art Hub, the Sara Peterson Gallery, and an expansive mural program made possible by the Route 66 Association of Kingman, Kingman Center for The Arts, and Kingman Main Street are infusing the historic heart of the city with an infectious vibrancy.
The diverse array of public murals created by critically acclaimed artists are becoming popular photo ops for Route 66 travelers. They are also fostering development of a sense of community and community purpose.
Sculpture is also being added to the streetscape. Standing in the shadow of the historic Hotel Beale is the twelve-foot-tall Running Hare built in the summer of 2015. With funding from the Route 66 Association of Kingman, it was created by internationally acclaimed artist Donald Gialanella.
On May 27, as part of the National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities, a new plaza at the historic railroad depot will be unveiled. The center piece will be a sculpture by internationally acclaimed bronze sculptor J. Anne Butler. The project, a partnership between the City of Kingman and Kingman Main Street, will further enhance the districts growing reputation as an arts center.
Avant Print and Frame is an integral part of Kingman’s art community. Aside from personalized service in giclée fine art printing and museum quality custom archival framing, the company’s team has intimate knowledge of the artists needs.
Sara Peterson, founder, is an artist of renown with an MFA from the Academy of Art University. John Erickson is a master framer.
Written by Author Jim Hinckley