America’s Southwest holds exciting culinary and cultural delights along with its more traditional, natural wonders. In Tucson, Arizona, access to a revitalized downtown and hip university area is easy with a modern SunLink street car system. Enhancing Tucson’s sleek, convenient street car route are twenty-one, intriguing art pieces funded by the Percent for Art program and facilitated by Tucson Pima Arts Council, the designated arts agency for the City of Tucson.
Street car route’s public art
Some of the signature art installations on Tucson’s SunLink street car route adorn shaded ramada stations, others sit roadside, and some are installed on center islands. Adding to the richness of the public art displays are LED poetry boards that display works selected and contributed by the University of Arizona Poetry Center.
While many of the artists commissioned for Tucson’s street car public art installations hail from Arizona, others hail from more distant regions of America’s West and Southwest including New Mexico and California. The art installations are rich and imaginative. For example, Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead’s inspiring “Poet,” an immense head of letters, words, and thoughts, marks the Helen Street and Warren Avenue stop near both the University of Arizona’s renowned Health Sciences Center and Poetry Center.
For a touch of Arizona history, the Congress Street and Church Avenue station is marked by Joe Tyler’s art installation of a massive, elegant yucca plant with its tall center stalk displaying the names of Arizona’s fifteen counties. The meaningful “Our Roots” by Christina Cardenas and Xochitl Gil-Higochi is integrated into the Avenida Del Convento and Congress Street stop. Artist Rafe Ropek’s “Pen/Sword” is a winged installation marking the 2nd Street and Highland Avenue station.
The astronomical work, “Wandering Stars,” by Joseph O’Connell, Blessing Hancock, Eliot Hart swirls at the Cushing and Granada station. Artist Eric Powell’s winsome yellow whale, “Calabashes,” at the Congress Street and 6th Avenue station is sure to capture the imaginations of children and sea lovers. Artist Susan Wink’s evocative “Flight of Time” is located at University Boulevard and 3rd Avenue. The elegant panels of Mary Lucking and Pete Goldlust’s “Nancyplants” are exhibited at the 4th Avenue and 7th Street station.
Public art installations slideshow
Enjoy the slideshow accompanying this article for image perspectives of the public art installations and Tucson’s convenient street car.
Stop to eat and drink
While feeding the mind and imagination with art along Tucson’s street car route, be sure to stop and feed your taste buds and slack your thirst, too. Diverse stops for food and drink abound. From the Avenida Del Convento and Congress site, it’s easy to access the Mercado San Agustin plaza, where you can grab Mexican pastries at the La Estrella Bakery. Try their freshly baked empanadas available in tasty flavors such as apple, pumpkin, and cherry or their interesting, fresh spinach tortillas. Visit Blu Wine and Cheese Shop for a delicious wine and cheese coupling that you can enjoy at Mercado San Agustin’s shaded, outside tables. Or, visit Transit Cycles, a shop that has won the Interbike’s 2014 Best Urban Bike Shop award.
From the University Boulevard and 3rd Avenue street car stop, you can quench your thirst or get a bite at multiple eateries on Main Gate Square. Stop for a brew at Gentle Ben’s marked by a huge, brown bear sculpture at its front door or relax with a drink on the misted patio of Frog and Firkin. For a quick Asian bite, stop at Fuku Sushi or Pei Wei Asian Diner. For a tasty breakfast, go to Wilko Winebar & Eatery, grab a window seat, enjoy a mimosa or craft cocktail, and relax while looking out at University of Arizona’s Main Gate. Or, try the urban farm-inspired menu at Pasco Kitchen and Lounge and enjoy your meal on the patio edging Geronimo Plaza.
From the 4th Avenue and 7th Avenue stop, you’ll have the chance to explore Tucson’s eclectic 4th Avenue area. Caruso’s Italian Restaurant, established in 1938, offers a tasty, full Italian menu at reasonable prices. Microbrews and bread bowls are available at Bison Witches. Surly Wench Pub offers $2 well drinks during its extensive Happy Hours. Across the street from Surly Wench, Sacred Art offers tattoos and body piercing; head through the door with the gargoyle over top. Or, within a Sonoran desert town environment on Tucson’s 4th Avenue, try an urban, faux beach bar experience at The Hut, easily recognized by the enormous KonTiki head in front.
For less eclectic but delicious fare, try Magpie’s for delicious gourmet pizzas and saucy chicken wings. Magpie’s is one of the locations for University of Arizona’s Science Café Lecture series. If your timing is fortuitous, you can enjoy both gourmet eats and free science knowledge!
From the Broadway Boulevard and Church Avenue stop, it’s easy to access Tucson’s informative Visitors Center at 100 S. Church Street in La Placita Village. From there, it’s possible to visit St. Augustine Cathedral at 192 S. Stone Avenue. For a very unique experience, take in St. Augustine Cathedral’s 8 AM Spanish language mass accented by mariachi music.
From the Tucson Visitors Center, add to your art experiences with a walk over to the Tucson Museum of Art, where your admission fee includes access to an adjacent historic block of houses including the Corbett House and La Casa Cordova.
While visiting the Tucson Museum of Art and its historic block, stop for lunch, dinner, or a weekend brunch on the grassy patio of La Cocina and enjoy music featured on its outdoor stage or a drink from its curated whiskey list at its Dusty Monk Pub. La Cocina restaurant and pub are located adjacent to the Tucson Museum of Art’s historic block. The relaxed eatery and pub are surrounded Old Town Artisans’ intriguing stores. Visit the galleries/stores of Old Town Artisans for multiple genre art by local artists and lots of folk art. With a shopping stroll through interesting, Old Town Artisans’ stores, you’ll see original ceilings made of saguaro cactus ribs, packing crates, and whiskey barrel staves because the stores are located on the site of El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, a fort built by the Spanish in 1775. Art, food, history, and local shopping, all are easily accessed through one, downtown Tucson stop.
It’s possible to make an all day, Tucson experience from the street car route or simply to isolate a single area. Park and ride access by public transportation with the street car, whether on the entire route and multiple stops with a Day Pass or through a single ride pass, remains easy. Alternatively, it’s simple to use a private car and convenient parking. Convenient, online parking maps help drivers locate convenient parking near the West, Downtown, 4th Avenue, and University locations.
In a Southwestern town bookended by two parts of Saguaro National Park, marked by 9,000 foot high Sky Island Mt. Lemmon, and surrounded by multiple, rugged mountain ranges, it’s easy to forget that Tucson, a city Outside magazine has named as one of the nation’s best road biking cities and Bicycling magazine has listed as #12 in its 50 Top Bike Friendly Cities, holds a rich, accessible assortment of downtown and university area hotspots and activities. Biking in, driving in, or riding the sleek and modern SunLink streetcar brings savvy visitors to the doorsteps of culinary, cultural, and social delights.
Find the take in this article to be helpful? National and International Travel and Recreation as well as National Education and Industry materials come from a husband and wife creative team, who travel extensively as photonaturalists and writers. One is an experienced research scientist with a doctorate in Material Sciences and background in optics research. The other is former Vice President of GKE (Global Knowledge Exchange), who served as a US Web-based Education Commissioner during the Clinton administration, and was a former US National Tech&Learning Teacher of the Year.
TIP: To keep current on similar articles, click the free, subscribe link at the top of this article.