Hiya, my name is Rich.
People travel for many reasons: to relax, shut out their day-to-day life, to get drunk on a beach, meet strangers in foreign bars and try to get them naked, to see family or friends, etc. And these are all valid reasons to travel. I don’t judge, hooray for whatever makes you happy.
For me though, the joy of traveling is the joy of discovery and of experiencing something that is truly awe-inspiring.
My fascination started only about six years ago. Wifey and I ventured to Los Angeles in 2009 to see the Museum of Jurassic Technology (which is a fascinating and strange museum) and other assorted oddities. One of the items on the “to see” list was the Watts Tower (which and for whatever this is worth, is probably the most famous art environment in America). But we barely made room to see it – in fact it was a last minutes stop on our way to the airport. If traffic was bad, as it often is in L.A., or lunch took too long, we would have skipped it.
But it blew my mind. It was one of the greatest thing I had ever seen! Built by one man, Sabato “Simon” Rodia, the towers are simply amazing and inspiring.
After I got home I started researching Rodia’s incredible towers and discovered that while there is only one Watts Tower, there are a bunch more personal places littering the map. I stumbled across some great websites and ordered a few books off Amazon. I found out that there are hundreds of art environments in this country alone (for the curious there are a bunch in Spain and France too). Some environments are well documented, some are completely ignored.
I was blown away that there was this whole world hiding in the hinterlands, a world that I had no idea of. Since then I have devoted a good chunk of mine and my wife’s time and money researching and traveling around looking for them. I recently graduated from a Museum Studies grad program in Berkeley, CA and I wrote several papers, including my thesis about art environments. I have seen approximately 75 different sites, some well known (for an art environment), some small and more obscure. There are still a ton to see.
Currently my travels are only in the USA. This is is not because I am a paroled criminal or because I fear foreigners. It is just that I am so fascinated by America and feel there is so much exploration to see and do. To quote Will Rogers, “There ought to be a law against anybody going to Europe till they had seen the things we have in this country.” Art environments are the antidote to cookie cutter strip malls and chain stores creeping across the land. There sure as hell are a lot of Wal-mart’s and McDonald’s out there, but we are not yet a giant homogenized blob. There is still a hint of regional diversity and underrepresented cultures out there, sometime you just have to look for it. I believe strongly that there are no flyover states, some of my favorite excursions were in Kansas, Wisconsin and the Deep South.
Thanks for reading all this nonsense,