It's the same old song, but with a different meaning every time we drive through this perfect piece of public art. No longer a youngster--hey, readers, it went up in 1999--this oldie but goodie was artist Stephen Farley's first major public art project. He had the ingenious idea of blowing up black-and-white photographs--taken of ordinary Tucsonans as they walked teeming downtown streets in the old days--and converting them into giant weatherproof ceramic tiles. Among them is one bona fide celebrity, a young and confident Lalo Guerrero striding into his star-studded musical future, but the rest of the pictures are of just folks. Maybe it all depends on our own mood, but sometimes the people in the pictures seem sad, ghosts of happier downtown days. Other days they seem to be saying, yo, Tucson, buck up, you can make downtown teem again.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: The Diamondback Bicycle Pedestrian Bridge, Broadway at Aviation Highway. It might not be the stairway to heaven but it's certainly not the bridge to nowhere that some wags have been calling it. This shimmering swoop of snake is the coolest thing to slither across this town in years. Six years in the making--a couple of tall tractor-trailer trucks crashed into it during construction--Simon Donovan's masterpiece is a translucent arc across the sky. The rattlesnake safely delivers bikers and walkers from one side of a dreadful road to the other; they enter via mouth or rattle and traverse the snake's interior. They don't feel claustrophobic, though; au contraire, they can see right through the porous skin to the sky and skyscrapers nearby. A bonus: Step into the tail and you hear a rattle, if not a shake and a roll.