In a remarkable moment of synergy for public art in Flagstaff, there are currently four murals that are being created or receiving restoration work right now. We received an update from staff at the City of Flagstaff on the progress of these works of art to share with our readers below. The four murals are: The Kings House Inn Mural on Route 66, the Centennial Mural next to the Visitor’s Center and train station, the Cow Mural on Natural Grocers at the corner of Milton & Butler, and the Sound of Flight Mural on the east wall of the Orpheum Theater.
Kings House Inn Mural
As the first submitted idea on Vision Flagstaff to achieve over 50 ‘likes’ the King’s Inn Mural became official when the City of Flagstaff and the Kings’ Inn property owner, through a public-private partnership, made possible another opportunity for the community’s long term enjoyment of public art. The mural is currently being painted on the ell-shaped wall located at the southeast corner of the property, just a few feet outside of Route 66’s right-of-way. This prime location will be seen by approximately 20,000 motorists per day making it one of Flagstaff’s most visible mural sites.
From fourteen artists who submitted portfolios for review, the city’s Beautification and Public Art Commission (BPAC) selected three as semi-finalists. The semi-finalists each submitted a mock-up for their vision of the mural to the BPAC on October 1. After review of the three semi-finalists’ mock-ups, the BPAC decided that none captured the artistic direction that the Commission had in mind and directed staff to reissue a call to artists. The revised call to artists was issued November 24, and 15 submissions were received for the BPAC’s consideration. Selection of a finalist, David Mullins, took place at the BPAC’s February meeting. According to the artist,” the design is primarily inspired by the flying fins and gleaming grills of the “style over substance” cars from the 1940’s & 50’s. Paying close attention to the lines, contours, shapes in automobile design as well as the neon signs, advertising, and optimism from that era, I tried to incorporate those elements into the mural design.”
Centennial Mural Touch-up
Painted by Redwing Nez in 2010 to commemorate the State of Arizona Centennial, this 60 foot long mural located on the north side of the visitor center represents, according to artist Bruce Aiken, “the cultural, historic, and natural aspect of what it means to live in Flagstaff”. However, because the mural was painted on a retaining wall adjacent to Route 66 where de-icing salt is still used, it has been cracking and peeling since its completion. A preliminary estimate from Mr. Nez to perform a complete restoration was considered too expensive given that additional touch-ups would have to occur every few years to continue preservation of the mural. Accordingly, the BPAC directed staff to perform one minor touch-up and then let the mural gracefully age/fade/dematerialize like other old unmaintained building murals in Flagstaff. A plaque is planned to interpret the ephemeral nature of the mural.
The ‘Cow’ Mural Touch-up at Natural Grocers
The original artist, Melanie LeGendre, nee Thomson-Myers, was commissioned by Jeff Cates, owner of the Furniture Barn, in October 2000 to paint the mural. According to Ms. LeGendre, “The business was having trouble getting visitors because it was set back off the street, so we figured a huge graphic could, and really did, help. There are so many cars on Milton – Mr. Cates needed to get their attention.” Years later, the Furniture Barn moved across town and Flagstaff’s Natural Grocers moved in. LeGendre has since moved to Scottsdale where she enjoys a successful art career but declined the opportunity to repair the mural. Project Administrator for the City’s Community Design and Redevelopment Program, Mark Di Lucido stated, “Because the cow is so well known and appreciated and because the building owner declined to repaint it, the city’s BPAC directed staff to spend BBB funds to touch her up.” Originally, the mural depicted a three story high cow popping from the wall with a drop shadow, flanked by several cows grazing in a beautiful green pasture. When Natural Grocers purchased the building they decided to repaint it. The city asked them to preserve the cow, which they did, but Natural Grocers opted to paint over the meadow and shadow portions of the original mural.
Today, the Mural Mice, authors of the Route 66 mural on Phoenix Avenue, are taking a short break from fundraising for the “Sound of Flight” mural at the Orpheum Theater to lend their talents to this project. “The Mural Mice were hired first and foremost because they are terrific artists and because they understand the economic and community building aspects of public art. They’re also proficient in appropriate techniques and materials needed to make sure the existing and newly painted surface work to recreate the original artist’s vision,” said Di Lucido. The mural is suffering from natural aging, which includes fading and some pealing. The reconstruction of the mural will take a little less than a week and should give the mural a fresh new face and a minimum of ten more years.
Sound of Flight Mural
Flagstaff artist Sky Black and Mural Mice, R.E. Wall and Margaret Dewar, are joining forces to place a mural of enormous proportions on the east-facing exterior wall of the Orpheum Theater. The first half of the piece depicts the climax of a song as a diverse flock of birds rise spectacularly from the glowing recesses of a grand piano. The second half depicts the birds soaring over the Grand Canyon into a brilliant sunset. Together, the two sides make one enormous mural.
On a wall measuring 4,500 square feet, the “Sound of Flight” mural is an ambitious project. That is why veteran muralists R.E. Wall and Margaret Dewar of the Mural Mice are lending their talents and community leadership experience to the cause. The project began in 2014 and will continue through 2015. Work on the second half of the mural is expected to begin again in July.