Downtown Scottsdale, Arizona, is an outdoor Southwestern art gallery and museum, with more than 50 spectacular public art pieces installed as part of the Scottsdale Public Art Program. You can wander on your own or take a self-guided 60-minute audio walking tour that passes by significant artworks such as the dazzling Soleri Bridge on the downtown waterfront and the kaleidoscopic mirrored panels of Donald Lipski’s “The Doors.”
Dramatic Western equestrian bronze sculptures, elaborate fountains and various interactive structures draw you from site to site. Led by a woman who may well be the city’s top tour guide, Ace Bailey, the free, two-hour Localmotion Cultural Tour, by trolley, starts at 10:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of every month; reservations are required. This an easy ramble to scenic and historic sights from the Old Adobe Mission church to the gallery and outdoor art district; to myriad works of art in the Scottsdale Civic Center park, and to the iconic, ’50s-style Hotel Valley Ho.
A long-time resident and art/culture expert, Ace also offers a variety of private and group art, architecture and Native American tours through her company, Ultimate Art & Cultural Tours. She has insider connections with artisans, historians and other local luminaries who have known and loved her for years, and go out of their way to meet with her clients.
At his Expressions Gallery in the arts district, we met with Dave McGary, whose monumental Native American figures in bronze are in the Smithsonian and the White House and throughout the West in state capitol buildings, museums and other public places.
One of my favorite experiences with Ace was when she took a few of us to meet the doyenne of Cattle Track Art Compound, Janie Ellis, who spun tales of family life on the historic ranch, which was established on the outskirts of Scottsdale in the 1930s, and is open to the public for tours. On the National Register of Historic Places, Cattle Track is a gathering of vibrant workshops inhabited by architects, printmakers, a blacksmith, a jeweler, and a ceramist, among others. The ranch has a long and glorious history of resident artists such as Fritz Scholder, world-famous for his Native American paintings, and the abstract expressionist Louise Nevelson.
The beat goes on: Ace can also set up workshops in printing, glass-making and other crafts.
Hotel Valley Ho’s Mad-Men era style is the brainchild of Edward Varney, an apprentice of the godfather of American architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright. Varney’s minimalistic architecture and hip, colorful interior attracted Hollywood stars in the late-‘50s and ‘60s. Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner were married there; Zsa Zsa Gabor rode horses around the property during her stays; and even Bing Crosby escaped to Valley Ho. Step back in time and saddle up to the bar to order a dirty martini!
(Full disclosure: I took this tour on a complimentary basis — and, I would gladly pay to tour with Ace Bailey again! Highly recommended.) What is your favorite city for outdoor public art? We’d love to hear about your artful adventures!