7 Outdoor Galleries That Are Reshaping Cities


There is something special about making what is old new again, about giving a second life to a place that is lived-in rather than giving up on it altogether. Thanks to the efforts of artists and community visionaries, abandoned haunts and worn-down, underutilized properties across the country are being transformed into vibrant outdoor art exhibits for all to enjoy.

Not only are these lively areas beautiful and brimming with character, but the upcycling of these storied spaces as pedestrian-friendly galleries is an organic and thoughtful way to preserve our planet’s resources. These streetscapes are receiving more than a fresh coat of paint, though. They are boosting the local economy, inspiring morale, educating visitors about the history and underestimated communities behind these locations along the way, and preserving entire neighborhoods through art.

Through these accessible art districts, casual and passionate art fans alike have the opportunity to interact up close and personally with various creative trades, from signage and sculptures to architecture and street art. Whether they’re up-and-coming spots to keep on your radar or established and beloved sites, you can seek out a few of the most innovative and imaginative hamlets by road trip or even in your own backyard. Photos are encouraged!


Reno’s Neon Line District

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The almost open Neon Line District is a complete reimagining of the legendary stretch of the Lincoln Highway in Nevada. The gorgeously eclectic outdoor art gallery spans 20 blocks and is lined with sculptures from past Burning Man Festivals, including Desert Guard, Rearing Horse, Bloomand squared. The historic art installations — which all debuted for the first time at the famed festival — will be rotated out every few years so that visitors from near and far have time to be entranced by what’s on display.

The colorful, half-mile ribbon of outdoor art isn’t called the Neon Line District for no reason. YESCO, or Young Electric Sign Company, is the popular neon sign maker responsible for restoring and installing historic signs in the city. You can stop by a total of nine along the path, including signs for Nevada US 40, Donner Inn, Harold’s Club, Stag Inn, El Ray Motel, Ramos Drugs Co., the Downtown Bowl, the Gold Room, and the City Center Motel .

because reno is the closest city to the iconic Burning Man festival, it has become a hub for all sorts of art and culture aficionados with one of the largest concentrations of outdoor art in the country. If you wander through any part of the Biggest Little City, you’ll find yourself beneath one of more than 100 vibrant murals. For a more detailed experience, you can take a self-guided walking tour of the public street art with the helpful assistance of Art Spot Renowhich tells you about each mural and artist.

Detroit’s Heidelberg Project

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When artist Tyree Guyton returned to his childhood neighborhood in Detroit to find it decaying, he began transforming the block of abandoned houses into an enchanting public art project. Starting with his childhood home, which is now known as the Dotty Wotty House, the Heidelberg Project has become a phenomenon of more than 20 works of art that span a neighborhood block.

As you wander through the whimsical, evolving outdoor gallery, you’ll find sidewalk art, found-object art, painted dumpsters, and transformed objects. The 3600 block of Heidelberg is full of meaning that you can soak in through tours or just by walking the street. It doesn’t stop with this transformed street — the Heidelberg Project is now a nonprofit that beautifies old and abandoned neighborhoods with and through art.

Virginia Beach’s ViBe Creative District

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Virginia Beach, Virginia, couldn’t be a more perfect setting for electric beach art. Located on the coastal tip of the state a few blocks away from the oceanfront, the ViBe Creative District is the recent home to a revitalized treasure trove of murals, art galleries, artisan shops, and music. The definition of art here is as wide as it is dynamic, with leather smiths, graphic gurus, coffee masters, culinary artists, interior designers, and other artists all coexisting within a 1.5-mile radius.

see the Community Fence Murals, which are individual paintings that create one neighborhood story across 100 pieces of plywood near the 18th Street Parklet. Just one block over, you can walk atop a masterpiece on the 19th Street Intersection. Finally, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the newly and creatively painted utility boxes, parking lot, parking metersand crosswalks around the area.

Art lovers can explore the array of vibrant murals on display in the district in any season of the year and at their own pace through a self guided mural tour. If visitors are looking to interact with the art in a more structured way, ViBe holds free First Friday and Second Saturday mural tours that are around one and a half hours and are family and pet friendly (with accommodations for visitors with disabilities). If you happen to be in town near the end of August, watch the walls come to life at the community-centric annual ViBe Mural Fest, where you can witness 10 murals come to life in 10 days. All the art is painted live and in person by local artists throughout the creative enclave.

Lakewood’s 40 West ArtLine

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40 West ArtLine is a four-mile walking and biking art route in Lakewood, Colorado. Located in the center of the 40 West Arts District, the colorful corridor weaves throughout ever-popular West Colfax Avenue and meanders along the W Line light rail. If you follow the painted lime-green line on the sidewalk, you’ll be led through breathtaking installations that brighten the local streets and community spirits alike.

The free outdoor art experience leads you through temporary and permanent artworks along the borders of Aviation Park, Walker-Branch Park, Mountain Park, and other lively parks in the area. You’ll find three-dimensional art on gates and fences, painted below your feet, and even protruding from the ground that kids are encouraged to interact with and play on. Visitors can even take customized self guided mini tours of the area cured around their personal interests!

Miami’s Wynwood Walls

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This Florida city’s warehouse district received a major face-lift when the late visionary Tony Goldman introduced the Wynwood Walls in 2009. Since its inception, the creative quarter has nabbed international attention and become Miami’s — and one of the country’s — largest and most impressive art and culture districts. The national yet global destination boasts hundreds of world-famous street artists who represent a plethora of countries. Right now, the art zone covers more than 80,000 square feet of walls.

Goldman wanted to create a center of exploration specifically committed to graffiti and street art — genres that he believed were “underappreciated and not respected historically.” He wanted to give the meaningful movement more attention, so he turned the empty 25th to 26th street complex into a place of exploration dedicated to the art form.

You can relax in or gander through the outdoor garden full of installations and spray-painted pieces, visit the gallery inside, or snap a selfie in front of the expansive murals that guard the giant square of art. Starting in 2013 with “Woman on the Walls,” each year for Miami Art Week [this link doesn’t work] there is a designated theme for the artists who transform the walls in that time. Tickets are required for admission, and for a few extra bucks, visitors can receive public or private tours and receive early access.

Austin’s HOPE Outdoor Gallery

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For more than 10 years, this Texas gallery has been a beacon of hope and a symbol of perseverance through both its art and its story. The HOPE Outdoor Gallery opened in March 2010 on a failed condo development site from the 1980s. Contemporary artist Shepard Fairey, alongside hundreds of other local artists, developed this outdoor gallery concept as an art park that would provide muralists, street artists, and community groups a canvas to spread only inspirational, positive, and educational messaging.

Once located on Baylor Street in downtown Austin and now being relocated to a longer-term home by the Austin airport, the space is set to open within the coming year as an eco-friendly 17-acre park with more room for play and learning than before. There will be an open-air cultural events center for events and art classes, a technology gallery, and more. You can expect to see a familiar wall from the original installation that will become a permanent feature of the new park, but you can also expect to see new, even more hope-filled murals redefining what art and the world can look like.

Los Angeles’ Destination Crenshaw

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When it was decided by the city that a new transportation project would slice through the heartbeat of this historically Black Los Angeles hub, not only did it take business parking spaces, local economic prosperity, and landscape with it, but longtime residents and business owners knew erasure of their community might be next. Destination Crenshaw is a powerful project that will act as a counterbalance to gentrification through art.

The 1.3-mile-long open-air museum along Crenshaw Boulevard in California, which is currently under construction, is dedicated to preserving and celebrating Black history and culture in the area and in the country. the incredible revitalization project is a $100 million effort that will bring public art, pocket parks, street furniture, outdoor sculptures, and newly planted trees to the historic area. In total, there will be four new acres of cultural open spaces and more than 100 commissioned works of public art by Black artists.

Visitors can expect to see a wide array of visual art, including murals, sculptures, illustrations, and more. Not only will it dramatically repair and sustain an area that has long deserved economic investment and strategic urban planning, but it will also create hundreds of local jobs for neighborhood residents and become California’s largest Black artists jobs program to provide resources, mentorship, and professional development for participating artists.


Mia Brabham is a staff writer at Shondaland. Follow her on Twitter at @hotmessmia.

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