A Tourist in My Own Hometown

By Dan Weisz

The changes in our lifestyles over the past eight months have been interesting, for sure.  This weekend was the right time to do something different so we chose to be tourists in our own hometown of Tucson.  Tucson is known for its many and growing list of murals.  It seems like almost every Tucson wall tells a story.  After a bit of research, we began a walk downtown on a quiet Sunday morning to look for new murals and here’s a bit of what we saw.

At the Sahara Apartments, this bicycle mural features animals from the Sahara Desert on a dreamy bicycle ride past a desert oasis.  Joe Pagac worked with Katherine Joyce on this mural, which mirrors Joe’s other well known bicycle mural- (http://joepagac.net/murals#/public-art

By Armory Park behind the Aveeda Institute (School of Beauty) on Arizona Avenue, a woman is taking a selfie in the desert.   Just half of the mural is shown here.  This mural was created by Danny Martin, who has been called the king of black and white skeleton murals.

The one mural in this collection that we had seen before is the Cesar Chavez mural located on the north side of the Five Points Market.  Indigenous deities are perched next to the Aztec mother goddess Tonan and this half of the mural includes Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi.

Outside of Carly Quinn Designs, some of her hand glazed tile displays advertised the business.  Prickly Pear flowers always show astounding colors every year and this piece celebrates them.

I’m not sure about the history of the mural below or even the building it was on. I didn’t walk to the other side to find out who occupied the building. I do like how the couple is painted on rolling garage doors and we were surprised to come across it as it was not on any of the guides we used for our walk.

On one private cul-de-sac downtown many of the homes had been rebuilt.  Jessica Gonzales is another Tucson Mural Artist with many public pieces and she was named the Best Visual Artist in this year’s Tucson Weekly Best of Tucson poll.  She said this mural, on the side of a private home, was inspired by the beauty of monsoon season and its gift to the desert.

Another smaller Jessica Gonzales mural was on the wall of a house on the same street as the mural above in Barrio Viejo.  With its celestial theme, it has a carved wooden frame and is on the front porch.

Old street “art” or new, this evokes a hint of the history of a local building.

A law office in Barrio Libre is now housed in the building that was once Jerry’s Lee Ho Market.  The mural depicts images from the history of the neighborhood.  For more on the neighborhood history, go to http://www.barrioviejo.com/history.html 

Below is another look into Tucson’s past.  I don’t know whether this was on the original wall of this restoration or just inspired by a nearby wall, but it lets us know that walls have told stories for much of Tucson’s history.

Tucked behind a building on a private building is this mural, another B&W by Danny Martin.

Nextdoor to the mural above is the WomanKraft Art Center, a non-profit dedicated to supporting women.  

The mural below is on the side of La Pilita Museum and Cultural Center.  Martin Moreno painted the mural in the 80’s.  The building became abandoned and fell into disrepair.  In ’98, Carrillo School initiated a partnership with the City of Tucson, leasing the building to house a living museum of Tucson’s history with Carrillo students serving as docents.  Students helped to renovate the fountain and helped Mr. Moreno to repaint and repair the then faded and damaged mural.  Martin later retouched the colors and made some slight changes in 2011. He said that the mural uses many traditional Mexican and Aztec symbols to show the history and culture of Barrio Viejo.

La Pilita, which was closed that morning but in the locked backyard we spotted another mural through the fencing.  I couldn’t find any information about it, so it’s just yours to enjoy!  https://tucson.com/news/local/museum-that-displayed-tucsons-lost-barrio-history-closes/article_61efb781-6134-5e70-9dc4-7e8100fb9841.html   

Next to La Pilita is Tucson’s famous “El Tiradito”.  The Wishing Shrine is said to be the only Catholic shrine in the United States “dedicated to the soul of a sinner who is buried in unconsecrated ground”.  The stories about its origin all involve a tragic love triangle in the early 1870’s.  Although I’ve visited this site often in the past, I had never noticed the many notes left tucked in the wall.  The notes themselves are left by visitors and likely tell even more stories of wishes, dreams, prayers, thank-you’s and desires.  For more on El Tiradito, go to http://www.tucsonmuseum.org/shrinecurse.htm 

Across the street from El Tiradito is the old La Suprema Tortilla Factory building.  Once a Chinese market and later a tortilla factory, this building is now a “coworking and events space”.  The mural faces the parking lot of a neighboring law office and you can see El Tiradito across the street.  The tortillas at each end of the mural refer back to the building’s past.

There are so many more murals to visit but that will have to wait for another weekend.

To see more of Tucson’s murals and perhaps plan your own walking tour, 

go to https://thisistucson.com/tucsonlife/80-amazing-tucson-murals-and-where-to-find-them/article_9f5d841a-39ab-11e7-8840-8bd7d101486e.html 

or https://www.meetmeatmaynards.com/mural-walk-2/ 

or https://lauratanzerdesigns.com/12-murals-to-see-in-downtown-tucson/

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