Route 66 has acquired an iconography that reflects American culture with automobiles and open-road freedom. While the iconography tends to celebrate modernity and promote a national car ideal, the reality of small forgotten places that were bypassed by the more modern freeways is struggle and isolation. Public art in these places could be dismissed as kitsch or opportunistic small-scale capitalism, but the common themes and motifs along a 2,000-mile-long stretch of America has a broader meaning. This research follows an ethnographic approach called participant observation. The authors explore Route 66 much as a tourist would, but record and document public art with photography, mapping, drawing, and field notes. In addition, we consider the cultural landscapes, the specific settings for the art—shaped by local artists, and the public interactions with the art. While expected, the predominance of automobiles as part of the artistic endeavor was conspicuous. Much of this symbolism relates to classic automobiles from the past. The emergence of motorcycles as part of the contemporary Route 66 experience was also apparent. The incorporation of mobility symbolism is highly significant as it interweaves with ideological themes of freedom and patriotism.
|Keywords:||Route 66, Mobility, Sense of Place, Automobile, American Southwest|
Instructional Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
Graduate Student, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO, USA