Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

50 States of Public Art: Public Art in Tempe, Arizona

Utility box painted with a blue background on which a white rabbit sits upright, surrounded by birds and cactus plants.

Day Dreaming at Tempe Town Lake by Linda Parker. Photo: Matt Winquist via City of Tempe, Arizona

Public art is everywhere, and this is the season for getting out and viewing it. Which is why I’ve started using Wednesdays on Caterpickles to highlight public art projects happening now in various parts of the country. This week, let’s take a quick (virtual) trip to Tempe, Arizona.

The Public Art of Tempe, Arizona

Title: Day Dreaming at Tempe Town Lake, 2012

Artist: Linda Parker

Location: Southwest corner of 7th Street and Mill Avenue, Tempe, Arizona

Photo Source: Matt Winquist, via the City of Tempe, Arizona’s public art website

Associated Public Art Project:

Like Anchorage, Alaska, the City of Tempe, Arizona sets aside part of its annual budget to fund public art. One percent of the City’s total annual capital improvements budget lands in the Municipal Art Fund, which the City uses to advance art in all of its forms. Not surprisingly, there is a ton of public art in Tempe, just waiting for you to find it.

The City has used those funds to transform its bus stops, utility boxes, parks, paths, bridges, and streets, as well as its public buildings and community art centerThey’ve even dropped small bits of art on the city’s library cards.

Want to see Day Dreaming at Tempe Town Lake for yourself?

The City of Tempe makes it really easy for local residents and visitors to find its public art. They’ve catalogued it extensively online, and created a wonderful interactive map to the various art works around town.

Next time you’re in Tempe, take a few minutes and look around. I bet you’ll spot something surprising. When you do, we’d love to hear about it here on Caterpickles or Twitter (@shalahowell).

Want to go, but need help selling it to your kids?  

The fact that public art is installed in public spaces creates all sorts of opportunities for family fun. Pack a picnic lunch, and pair the outing with a trip to a nearby park or playground. If you have one, consider bringing your dog.

Don’t have time for a full-fledged outing? Challenge your kids to keep their eyes open while you are out and about doing something else. I bet they (or you) will spot something interesting on your next walk, bike ride, or errand run.

My book, What’s That, Mom?: How to use public art to engage your children with the world around them… without being an artist yourself, is full of tips like these for making public art sightings fun for your entire family.

What’s That, Mom? provides 15 accessible, practical strategies for using public art to spark conversations with children between the ages of 3 and 10 — no artistic talent or insight required. What’s That, Mom? is available at and Amazon. There’s even a journal to go with it so that your kids can sketch their favorite works of art and you can record your favorite moments from your outing.

NOTE: The above paragraphs contain affiliate links to, an online bookstore that provides financial support to local, independent bookstores. At the time I wrote this post, had already raised $12.8m for local bookstores. If you use the link in the previous paragraph to purchase my book on, I’ll earn a commission on your book purchase, as will your preferred independent bookshop. You can also find my book in the new Caterpickles BookstoreRegardless of whether you use my links or visit the Caterpickles Bookstore, thank you for spending part of your day reading Caterpickles. Learn more about Affiliate Links, the Caterpickles Bookstore, and why I decided to become a Affiliate.

Happy public art hunting!

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