Best Of Tucson®

Best Public Art Commission

Broadway/Aviation Tile Murals

READERS' PICK: A lot of public art seems, well, just to confuse the public at first -- like "Sonora," the abstract but hardly obscure red sculpture in front of the downtown branch of the Tucson Public Library. It puzzled most folks -- and angered a few -- when it was first installed in the late-eighties. But the photographic panels that line the railroad bridge just west of the intersection of Broadway and Aviation Highway dazzled rather than puzzled, from day one. Our favorite is that crazy public bus on Aviation's eastern wall, which looks like it just might break free of its ceramic confines and send traffic from the underpass zig-zagging frantically out of the way. It's a wonderful contribution to the downtown scene. (Also see Best Mural, this page.)

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP -- TIE: UA Fine Arts Oasis. "Front Row Center" at the UA Fine Arts Oasis is a cruel, cruel joke. In front of the Marroney Theater, environmental sculptor Barbara Grygutis has scattered several freestanding verdigris pieces that meld aspects of chairs, thrones and monumental plant life. It's a trap! Sit on one of these alluring metal pieces on a hot afternoon, and the sculpture's contours will be branded onto your butt. Talk about art that makes an impression....

Grygutis has employed the same chair motif in the pillars supporting the theater's canopy, a structure dotted with masks, musical instruments, tools and bits of costumes, all in the same metal. The whole project, installed less than a year ago and funded by both tax dollars and private donations, is an elegant and witty celebration of the performing arts, and of the arts audience. "Front Row Center" isn't just about abstract things like line and texture; it's about us.

Tucson artist Barbara Grygutis has created public art that recreates public spaces all over the city and country. In our own downtown, The Alene Dunlop Garden in the El Presidio neighborhood is one favorite retreat. Take a short walk from City Hall, and you can sit amid mesquite trees and stone obelisks topped with cobalt blue tile. Her ceramic tile sculptures offer a cool alternative to the desert heat, and an invitation to relax and contemplate; to touch the cool stone and ceramic surfaces and enjoy some quiet conversation -- alone or with someone else -- in the midst of a busy metropolis.