California Highway 111 is the main artery of the Coachella Valley. It’s the best way to travel between cities. But, this is not just a bland road. It’s brimming with attractions you can stop and see along the way. You will find pieces of public art, not to mention beautiful scenery.
Do you like to explore? Do you like seeing unique things? Do you enjoy seeing sculptures that have a meaning behind them? Then you must take some time to travel the 111 and check out some of the public art along the way.
This article will introduce you to some of the public art for you to enjoy on your road trip. We’ll start with Palm Springs and take you down the highway.
The 111 begins at exit 111 on Interstate 10, near Whitewater, and runs for 130 miles to the Mexico border. As you exit from the 10, you’ll be greeted with beautiful views of the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio Mountains. Windmills dot the landscape as you pass by some of the steepest mountains in the country. The mountains will be so close that you can touch. So, why not do that.
As you approach Palm Springs from the north on the 111, you’ll pass Shiprock. The Cahuilla people call Shiprock “kista cavel” which translates to sharp pointed rocks. That’s exactly what Shiprock is, a massive piece of granite tilted up towards the sky. It’s a great place to stop and take a picture.
The Rainmaker Fountain (Frances Stephens Park)
Although the 111 technically turns at Vista Chino, it’s worth taking a small detour through downtown Palm Springs on the 111-business. As you enter Palm Springs, the 111 is called Palm Canyon Drive. Just stay on Palm Canyon until you get to Alejo.
Located on the southwest corner of Frances Stephens Park sits a marvelous fountain called the “Rainmaker”. This statue stands approximately 25-feet tall. This kinetic sculpture was designed by David Morris in 2000. The sculpture is powered by water and has four angled wands that fill with water and move up and down constantly. On some of the downward treks, a gentle cascade of water will spill into the basin. One could remain mesmerized for hours trying to figure out which wand will spew water next.
Gene Autry: “America’s Favorite Signing Cowboy” Statue
Continue on Palm Canyon down to Ramon and make a left turn. Located on the southeast corner of Gene Autry Trail and Ramon Road, there is a 7 feet tall bronze statue of Gene Autry, the “Singing Cowboy”. Autry appears to be strumming his guitar and singing.
Autry was a singer/songwriter, actor, musician, rodeo performer, and a businessman. He was part owner of the LA Angels and was a pioneer in the country music world. Autry was a part-time resident and hotel owner in Palm Springs. His used his hotel (now known as the Parker) to house the baseball team.
Just across the street from Gene Autry sits another piece of public art. Red Echo is a series of red rods embedded into the concrete. The rods sway and bend in the wind like the palm trees you see throughout this area. The sculpture sits in a plaza of a shopping center. There are several places to eat nearby. This could be a great place to stop for a bite and enjoy some art.
After enjoying the two sculptures on Gene Autry, follow Gene Autry Trail down to East Palm Canyon Drive to stay on the 111. About 2.5 miles down, on your left, you’ll notice the sculpture entitled “Perfect Union.” You won’t miss the shining stainless steel and glass sculpture sitting on a pedestal in the median.
Laing’s art is to take hard materials and bend them into flowing shapes that have “movement.” Perfect Union follows Laing’s style by bending hard steel into an semi-circle that terminates in two aggressive arrow points.
Cancer Survivors Park
You can find the Bloch Foundation’s Cancer Survivors Parks throughout the country. But, the one-acre park just outside Rancho Mirage City Hall is a peaceful oasis worth stopping for. The sculpture garden is a treat. There are lovely tiled benches where you can sit and enjoy the art. Many a visitor has been touched by the sentiments on the plaques as well.
This next piece isn’t on the 111. But the short 3-minute detour to Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park is worth it. Just make a left turn on San Pablo Avenue to get there.
The “Dreamer” statue depicts a boy that is sinking into the ground because he has been relaxing casually for too long. The sculpture was constructed by David Phelps in 1991. He fashioned it using three separate pieces all made of Lost Wax Metal Casting. He did this in order to give the illusion of the boy having sank into the ground.
Also located in the Civic Center Park on the southwest side of the park, is the Peace Memorial.
This amazing work of art was designed and constructed in 1991 by Ross Andrews and Marton Varo. It is three pieces measuring 6 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet made with pure white marble. It sits upon a triangular base that has three tiers. Behind the sculpture, you will notice five granite columns that stand 10 feet tall.
Also called The Eye of the Sun, this iconic sculpture sits in the traffic median of Jackson St and HWY 111.
This sculpture is made of steel painted white. The design mimics palm fronds, a common site in this area. In the past, palm fronds were used to make shelters. Palms also grow dates, a major crop in this region. The artist, Buster Simpson, was inspired by both uses of palms in creating this piece. The sculpture is lit up with LED lights at night. So, this is a great piece to view around sunset after it’s lit up, at the end of your tour down the 111.
Plan a day trip to travel the 111 and see these and many other pieces of public art and public monuments that are easily accessible from the 111.
Have you been to any of the places we mentioned? Do you have a story to tell or pictures to share about these or other art pieces? Tell us about it: @XPLORzine on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.