Sunday, January 24, 2010

Art in the Mule Mountains

We're riding higher and higher into the mile-high Mule Mountains, heading to Bisbee, a dried-up old copper mine town, I'm told, where old miners' shacks now house artists. Quaint, I think. A curiosity. Art in all this dust (it's still desert here.)

The drive from Tombsonte, AZ, goes southeast toward Mexico and take about 45 minutes. All uphill.

And in that 45 minutes, WOW! We enter a different world, but is it Italy? France? Maybe Mexico? I don't know, but I now know the meaning of Old World Charm.

This is not quaint. It's spectacular. It's no curiosity. It's serious living by creative artists, playwrights, singers, musicians. They've morphed this dried-up old copper mine town into a must-see gem of Southern Arizona.

To see it, we hold our breaths as we navigate up and down and around narrow lanes that meander over, around and through these mountains.

Homes, many of them small and dating back a century or so,  stepladder up and down steep mountainsides. How do they not fall down?  Most of the homes display some form of architectural or artistic creativity. It is, after all, an artist colony, not just a place where artists live.

I see tiles decorating lampposts, walking bridges, door frames. Hand railings of polished curved wood. Bells and birdhouses dangling from trees. Welded sculptures hanging out on rooftops, in side yards, atop fences and at front doors.

And the colors! Purples. Greens. Reds. Visually superb.

There are numerous fine art galleries in town and an excellent historical museum about the town's copper mining past (well worthy of its affiliation with the Smithsonian).

But to consume art, to absorb it, to savor its rewards, there's no need to park.

Bisbee is art.

(Go here to see the picture above by Elizabeth R. Mitchell and other photographs from Bisbee.)

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