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Beauty on Brick

Southern Arizona style in the Tucson Mural Arts Program

Article by Kristin Tovar

Header Image: Tucson Arts Brigade Mural by Rocky Martinez

Earlier this summer, Tucson received the wonderful addition of eight new murals in the downtown area. The Tucson Arts Brigade chose these murals from nearly sixty submissions from local artists with the hope of enriching the area with murals that reflect diversity in style and culture. This collaborative project between several organizations, funded by various grants and donors, and designed by multiple artists, draws attention to the collaborative and creative community in Tucson. Blank walls spur the imagination and possibility of what could be, and with these blank walls no longer blank, the hope is that tagging will decrease in these areas. But more than simply deterring such behavior, this program has provided an opportunity for the community to express itself in a fresh, bold way.

Each of the eight murals are unique in subject matter, all showcasing different aspects of Tucson’s history and culture, yet they all point to a spirit of cooperation and collaboration that shows the power of locals coming together to build a community that celebrates its culture.

Situated at an entry point to downtown, Rock Martinez’s “Agave Lady”, welcomes those in her presence to experience the colorful, resilient, and wild side of the desert. The desert is wild, yes, but Tucson is not just a traditional desert city. The Old Pueblo brings a new definition to the wild in its diversity, grit, heart, sense of humor, and bold, unapologetic sense of self. Many of the murals give a nod to the interesting Sonoran landscape and wildlife seen in the southwest, as well as shedding light on the beautiful fabric that makes up the diverse culture of residents all coming together from different places to call this place home. Niki Glen’s mural, “Interconnectivity”, touches on this idea of connections in nature and among people. It points to the synergy of the city as a whole, and it is wildly exciting to behold this time in Tucson’s history.

With the new murals as your guide on your next trip downtown, you will see they add another layer of complexity and interest to the landscape of the city. Instead of simply a network of restaurants, coffee, shops, and bars, now there’s also a new collection of art woven throughout these already familiar places. These networks create a sense of vibrancy in the heart of the city that will not easily fade. Visitors, locals, and business owners can all celebrate the momentum of a growing downtown together. Not all growth in a city is as visible as the addition of public murals, so this is an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy the determined spirit of those that live in the desert and fight to experience all its beauty.

Judging from the buzz these new murals have already received, it is only a matter of time before more of this longtime Tucson expression of creativity fills the streets.

Through their bright colors and bold images, these murals bring to life buildings and add a new, creative energy. Some have transformed alleys into destinations that people are eager to visit. Others provide commuters a moment to stop in their day and be inspired. Whether you plan to see them or you stumble upon them, you will be pleasantly surprised with how they display Tucson’s personality in unexpected places. Walking through the city will give you a new appreciation for the diversity and new life growing in our urban core. You will be rewarded with glimpses of creative Tucsonans and a community expressing itself for all to see.

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