With sculpture installations that run the gamut from concrete boxes to an haute-Couture clothing store by the side of the highway, the American Southwest is as cosmopolitan as the Chevrolet Spark
By Jenny Komenda
While the air might be dry in the great American Southwest, the design scene is most definitely not! It’s chock full of surprises—much like the Chevrolet Spark, which packs a huge number of cutting-edge design elements into an unassuming mini car. (Chevrolet MyLink*? Check. City-savvy aluminum wheels? Check. Available in an array of spicy colors that rival the zing of salsa? Check.) So what are you waiting for? A desert road trip in a Spark will provide even the most discerning design aficionado with a new appreciation for the cultural innovation and expansiveness of this corner of the United States. And now, with the Spark’s available navigation system BringGo**, you’ll be led to thousands of points of interest. Here are four of my favorites:
Palm Springs, CA
Beyond a handful of can’t-be-missed hotels (like the Parker and the Viceroy, where you can play Don and Betty Draper with cocktails in the pool at noon) and a truly exceptional art museum, Palm Springs is at its heart a midcentury design-lover’s paradise. From the airport to the post office to Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway, Palm Springs offers an unparalleled driving tour of midcentury architectural gems. Not to be missed is the famous Kauffmann Desert House, designed by Neutra. You’ll probably remember it as the simultaneously stark and swank backdrop to several 1970s Slim Aarons photos.
The Painted Desert, AZ
When headed down Route 66, just after the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff in Arizona, make sure you hit up Holbrook to see the Wigwam Village Motel on your way to the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. The giant semi-circle of teepee-shaped concrete buildings is a sight to see (especially for old Dave Matthews Band music video fans). But don’t get distracted for too long! Just around the corner from the wigwams (and a kitschy and sort of cool installation of large dinosaur sculptures) is the amazing Gray’s Rock and Mineral Shop. This large store sells every kind of ware you could imagine, all made from raw or carved stones, rocks, minerals, petrified wood or gems. The hours will fly by as you marvel at Mother Nature’s talents while contemplating what you’ll finally choose as a souvenir.
Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos, NM
The stretch of highway that runs from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and on to Taos takes about two hours to drive. In addition to the adobe-style buildings and the occasional coyote, you’ll find an edgy and captivating arts scene. Taos is known for its artist enclaves and prolific galleries. The SITE museum in Santa Fe is always showing something contemporary and exciting. And while not all that modern or cutting-edge, the Tinkertown Museum near Albuquerque is not to be missed, especially for folk art enthusiasts. Here you’ll see a body of work more than 40 years in the making. Artist Ross Ward carved and painted figurines and scenes that are quirky, whimsical and quintessentially American.
There’s no doubt that a road trip to Marfa, TX is probably out of your way. But it’s a legendary draw for artists, so why not hop in your Spark at sunrise and make the five- or six-hour drive through the still, sprawling desert to what so many art critics are calling the heart of the American arts scene. The West’s version of Art Basel in Miami lives in a sleepy desert town, population 5,000. In addition to the stretch of art galleries in Marfa, be sure not to miss Donald Judd’s concrete box sculptures that look especially lovely at sunset, and Elmgreen and Dragset’s permanent sculpture installation on the side of the highway: a glass and concrete Prada store, complete with shoes and clothes on display.
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This is the first in a series of road-trip stories about design on Chevy Culture.
Jenny Komenda is a New York City-based interior designer and blogger. Her daily posts on Little Green Notebook cover decor-related inspiration and DIY projects (many of which she's tested out on the Brooklyn brownstone she’s renovating herself, with her young family in tow). Jenny's work has been showcased in Elle Decor, Better Homes and Gardens, Vogue, House and Home and Good Housekeeping, as well as on HGTV.
*MyLink functionality varies by model. Full functionality requires compatible Bluetooth and smartphone, and USB connectivity for some devices. MyLink on Spark and Sonic does not include functionality such as enhanced voice recognition, Gracenote and CD player.
**Requires available Chevrolet MyLink and BringGo navigation app. BringGo app must be purchased separately. Requires compatible smartphone. Data plan rates apply. See dealer or call 1-855-4-SUPPORT (1-855-478-7767) for more information.