Page 13 - The Noise August 2017
P. 13

glorious neighborhoods of color mural mice painT up bushmasTer park
by joey bono
The Mural Mice are at it again! This time bringing their palette packed pigments to Bushmaster Park. This new project is funded by Flagstaff’s Beautification and Public Arts Commission (BPAC) and was awarded to Maggie Dewar and R.E. Wall (collectively know as the Mural Mice) in a very tight juried final vote, with the duo’s vast portfolio and veteran mural skills ultimately winning out.
Bushmaster Park has undergone an enormous renovation since an influx of Bed, Board and Booze (BBB) tax revenue, with nearly $15 million in funds being allocated since 2015, which has rejuvenated local residents interest and usage of many of the park’s features. This mural represents the ongoing focus of making this park an Eastside gem.
During a public info-session in early June, an on-site lemonade stand was used to gener- ate outreach, and local residents of all ages participated in provided input and guidance on the thematic tone the mural should take. The Mice formally pitched the design on July 10 to the full BPAC committee with the distillation of the final concept and design: a young girl blowing bubbles representing Aspirations (a skateboarder practicing), Gratitude (caring for an animal) and Wisdom (elder with child carrying a basket of a bountiful harvest).
This mural is unique in that it was designed to have public participation from concept to completion, and citizens came in droves with a painting party kick off on Saturday July 15, when 90% of the wall was numbered, making quick work of the mural base. The Mice estimate nearly 100 citizens of all ages and abilities have thus far participated in the project.
Cele Rodriguez, who lives adjacent to the mural brought his 4-year old daughter, Celia who enthusiastically painted two days in a row, making instant friends with Maggie and the newest addition to the team, the on-site Mural Mutt, Shiloah.
Speaking to the importance of setting a proper example of how to treat the park, Mr. Ro- driguez notes, “I’ve seen some graffiti inside the skate park and I don’t want my kid to think it is okay to be growing up around graffiti; when I saw this I thought, ‘This is perfect, I’d rather see something that everyone can admire aesthetically.’”
Ms. Dewar beams her recognition of Celia’s hard work, “She is very skilled, she was able to really control the brush and stay in the lines and keep the paint smooth.”
This mural has sparked a keen interest with many who have never seen a mural being accomplished. “Certainly an ambition of ours is to have an affect on people, I always say the process of placing the murals is almost as important as the product you have at the end ... We are teaching them and learning from them while encouraging them to work well with each other and watching many neighbors meeting each other for the first time,” notes Mr. Wall. “I am always really impressed at how seriously they take their jobs, when I tell them the goal is to stay in-between the lines; they do a great job and are very quick learners. The adults never think they can paint, ‘Oh I’m not a painter, not an artist, you don’t want me up there at all.’ The kids don’t have those types of inhibitions. I tell them they have a steady hand or they are doing a good job filling in the spaces, I always try and tell them what they are doing right and coach them on what they can work on. They make my day — watching the fun times that they have there.”
Mr. Wall mentions that public art becomes personal and familiar with many community members garnering a sense of ownership. Halyn Tromm, who is a neighbor of the Mice and is
the central character blowing bubbles, is very excited to be featured in the mural. She was a bit shy initially upon arriving at the wall and then quickly got excited about painting her own face. Bret Whitley, a long-time resident of the Upper Greenlaw neighborhood enjoys the blos- soming of the public space. “I am pleased because this is bringing the community back into Bushmaster Park, and it does deserve this kind of beauty; I’m very appreciative to what they are doing.” He added, “I am glad that attention is being brought back to the eastside of town
and this is a prime time example of what it needs to be.”
This project has some unlikely participants as well, Michele Stewart and her two children,
Brook and Alyssa from Peoria, are vacationing in Flagstaff. “We came over to check out the park and they invited both kids to paint and now we’ve stopped doing everything else in town!” Watching her daughter work, she continues, “They are so good with the kids, it has made the entire vacation, it’s been very cool.”
This type of participation plays directly to the mission of BPAC in that not only are public art projects, landscaping, and environmental aesthetics designed to make a positive first im- pression in how visitors see Flagstaff, this mural project has gone a step further in allowing visitors to directly impact the look of Flagstaff through public art participation. Ms. Stewart elaborates, “We’re going to be renting again next summer and she can come and check it out!”
One of the overarching ambitions of this project is the placement of the mural, neighbors meeting each other for the first time, and having a hand in beautifying their community. Un- like many of the other murals around town, this one is situated outside the direct eyesight of the average tourist, and primarily seen by locals with a shared resource effect. The ramadas surrounding the mural are hubs for gatherings, holiday, graduation, and birthday parties along with weekend barbecues enjoyed by locals and visiting family members alike.
Mr. Wall gives a lot of props to the City of Flagstaff for “recognizing that building com- munity is a lot more than just dropping a picture on the wall and saying, ‘look how great we are.’ That’s not how you build community, you do it by listening to the community, and then giving them a product they helped to put together; the best course is to give the public a role.” He draws comparisons with apathetic civic engagement and how projects like this give citizens a sense of empowerment amid a climate where many feel disenfranchised. “I encour- age locals to participate in the monthly BPAC meetings because public art is everyone’s busi- ness and everyone has a say in how our city looks.” He likens it to one of the highest forms of civic activity.
Ms. Dewar speaks to how artists play an important role in society: “I am realizing that part of what the Mural Mice mission is is to encourage artists to take on their part, take it seriously that they are the ones to initiate these projects to beautify their communities. If we train enough young people to do these types of projects, then they’ll be the ones applying for bids and getting the city jobs and that’s what we are hoping for!”
The project culminates in a Dedication Ceremony at Bushmaster Park, 3150 North Alta Vista Drive, Saturday August 5, from 3-5PM with a Bubble Bash themed party and a Hopi elder blessing the mural.
above: Images from the making of the bushmaster Park mural. Photos by Joey bono & Re WaLL | the NOISE arts & news | AUGUST 2017 • 13

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