During my first trip to Ajo, AZ, I saw a few murals on the south side of the Plaza when I drove by on Highway 85.
This is the one I saw the most often:
I love the way the clouds and blue sky in the photo mirror the clouds and blue sky in the painting.
It faces the highway and is quite obvious. I saw it whenever I drove south past the Plaza.
This is the mural I saw as I drove north past the Plaza:
This is the mural to the left of the one with the coyote and the saguaro. The quote, attributed to Gandhi reads, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
During my second trip to Ajo, I decided to take photos of these two mural and the one to the immediate left of the one with the coyote and the saguaro, which I could just barely see when I drove by. As I stood at the entrance to the alley, I was quite surprised to see many murals painted on the walls on both sides.
As far as I remember, no one I met in Ajo or Why told me about this collection of murals. The lady in the thrift store didn’t mention it. I didn’t see any brochure about it at the visitor information center. Did Coyote Sue tell me about it and I forgot? I tend to enjoy looking at public art, so it seems to me if someone had mentioned these murals as an Ajo attraction, I would have gone to look at them right away.
When I did a Google search on “Ajo alley murals” (or something to that effect), I found an entry from April 6, 2015 on the Tucson Mural Arts Program blog. The date on this post shows the murals are fairly new.
At the top of the aforementioned blog post, there is information about the Tucson Mural Arts Program.
The (TMAP) seeks to create a city wide outdoor gallery of original artworks by matching artists with wall owners. TMAP is a results-based beautification program that involves residents of all ages in the design and painting of murals. We offer a viable solution to social isolation and property damage by working with our community to collaboratively create works of art.
I’m not sure if this stencil art is an officially sanctioned, but it’s in the alley, and I like it. I’m amazed by the depth of expression in the man’s face.
The blog entry, titled “Ajo Street Art Mural Project,” says,
Muralists from Tucson joined with artists from throughout the border region helped to enliven an alley between two historic warehouse buildings in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, Ajo, AZ.
Artists spent a week painting murals throughout the day and night creating a festival like atmosphere in the once barren alley way.
The blog posts shows “before” photos of the alley, as well as photos of the artists at work.
The post continues,
…Arts Brigade artists had a ton of fun working with the local high school students and their teacher. Students created a series of individual and group murals. TAB [Tucson Arts Brigade] artists taught students the basic tools and techniques needed to make a mural.
The TMAP website identifies this piece as “Alice Glasser Mural.” Alice’s signature is on the lower left of the piece.
This is one of my favorite pieces in the alley. I appreciate the way the pipes and the breaker box seem to disappear into the art. I wish I could hear the music these men would create. Who is Don? Is he one of the men represented here? And who is the artist? (I don’t think I cut the artist’s signature out of my photo, but that is a possibility.)
I’m surprised the town of Ajo or the International Sonoran Desert Alliance or TMAP or somebody hasn’t produced a brochure giving information about each piece. This art is beautiful and important and deserves to be seen. Is there such a brochure and I missed it? How could I have missed such a thing?
This mural made me sad because it’s been sketched out but never completed. What happened to the artist(s) who started this piece? Will it ever be finished?
I like that not all of the murals show off lofty themes or extraordinary artistic talent. This mural is by and for the people.
In any case, I was glad I stumbled upon the murals. In a way, it was more magical to find them on my own. I found them because I was paying attention, not because I saw it on a list of things tourists should do or because some guidebook or website or brochure recommended it to me.
I documented the whole alley, and now you can have a look at the art and decide on your favorites. (Feel free to write a comment to tell me which piece is your favorite and what you like about it.) I took all of the photos in this post, but of course, my photos never truly do justice to the subjects.
I tried to move the piece of metal visible on the bottom right of this photo so I could capture the full mural, but the metal was HEAVY. I enjoy the juxtaposition of the soothing blues and greens of the art next to the utility pole and the old door.
There is so much to love in this piece: the person composed of the yin-yang symbol, a heart, a peace sign, and the infinity symbol; the landscape with mountains, trees, and cacti; the reminders that “all life is sacred” and “end racism.”
The edge of this piece is visible on the left of the previous photo. I like the way this piece blends in to what’s around it.
If you don’t know Spanish, “eres el sueño” means, “you are the dream.”
I believe this piece represents the of three nations of the Sonoran Desert – the U.S., the Tohono O’odham Nation, and Mexico.
This piece is equating pre-unification Germany with the the Tohono O’odham Nation, which has been divided by the border between the U.S. and Mexico. From the Tohono O’odham Nation website: “From the early 18th Century through to the present, the O’odham land was occupied by foreign governments. With the independence of Republic of Mexico, O’odham fell under Mexican rule. Then, in 1853, through the Gadsden Purchase or Treaty of La Mesilla, O’odham land was divided almost in half, between the United States of America and Mexico… the new border between the United States and Mexico was not strictly enforced…In recent years, however, the border has come to affect the O’odham in many ways, because immigration laws prevent the O’odham from crossing it freely.
The TMAP blog post identifies this piece as “Kat’s Mural, ‘Heart of the Desert’.”
The TMAP blog identifies this piece as “Doors of Perception” and says it is “by Valeria and Isabella H. (TAB [Tucson Arts Brigade] youth artists).”
The TMAP blog post identifies this piece as ‘Flip.” It was painted by Michael Schwartz.
I find this mural so moving. It depicts the work of The Ajo Samaritans, a humanitarian aid group that works to prevent death in the desert by leaving food and water for travelers walking through the harsh terrain.
The words in Spanish say, “Take them if you’re thirsty.”
I took all of the photos in this post.
Nice! Did you happen to see the mural on the bookstore? Someone saw me ogling and was kind enough to point me to the footprints on the sidewalk that give the oblique (and intended) view of the whole thing.
Duck, I did see the mural on the bookstore, but I didn’t see footprints on the sidewalk, so had no idea where to stand. I think I took a photo of it. I will look for it in my photo file. If the photo is decent, I can do a short post on that mural too.
Thanks for reminding me of the bookstore mural and thanks for reading.
I enjoy your posts. This one was especially enjoyable as I admire local artists who are sharing their talents and, often, their politics as well. I’ve just recently signed on to follow your adventures and it’s been a pleasure. Right now I’m tied to my location as a caregiver for my partner who has dementia so journeying with you is a treat. Looking forward to more of your fun posts.
Ford, thanks for reading and subscribing, and most of all, thanks for commenting.
I’m glad you can join me on my travels while you are tied to a home base caring for your partner. I have several friends who are in or who have been in situations similar to yours.
What surprised me most about this alley full of murals is that (as far as I can tell) nothing is being done to promote it.
I like each one for different reasons. The 3 guys for Don is the most interesting looking. The free food and water is the most touching. The traditional southwestern murals give a sense of place.
Thanks for commenting, Wendy. I like almost all of the murals, and yes, each for different reasons. I appreciate being able to see all of the different styles, one right after another.
The murals are really nice. I especially like the dreamcatcher one, and the one that is mostly yellow and blue with a little white.
I am surprised that Mexican based natives need a passport to cross the border. I live near Canada (close to Buffalo NY) and the Indians here can cross the border freely as long as they have the card that shows they are enrolled in the Indian band they are a part of. Maybe that is what you meant by ID cards. They do a ceremonial bridge crossing every year, where they just walk both ways across the bridge as a means of demonstrating that they have that right. I’ve never gone but they always have photos in the newspaper. I don’t know if they actually have to show their cards for that or not. They just go over and back.
I am enjoying being a subscribing member of your blog. My older daughter spent some time living in her van and traveling a lot when she was in her 20’s. I miss her because she died in a boating accident about 11 years ago, at 42. She always made me laugh, and I miss that about her. She didn’t live near me for most of her adult years, but she did come home for the holidays and she did phone me often. She lived on the boat for several years at the end of her life, too. She did live in regular apartments occasionally too. She was a chef and changed jobs frequently, which is not at all unusual for a chef, then or now.
Marcia, thank you for your comment. Thank you, especially for sharing about the loss of your daughter. She sounds wonderful: adventuresome and funny. I am truly sorry for your loss.
I am not sure what kind of documentation the native folks near Ajo need to cross the border. All I know is what I read, and I haven’t read very much.
Thanks for reading.
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Hi. Thanks for your coverage. As you may know the arts are barely funded and this was mostly a volunteer project. There was a bit of money for paints and materials, but not enough to promo this or do brochures etc.. Arizona is 50th in funding for the arts. We are planning to do another version of this event in March 2017. People can check out our website to donate or for details at http://www.TucsonArtsBrigade.org
Thanks for the additional information and the website where people can get more information and/or donate.
I didn’t realize Arizona is 50th in funding for the arts. WOW! I would have guessed New Mexico or one of the Southern states. I guess someone’s got to be last, but that is sad.
As for as brochures about and promos of the murals, I was thinking that was something the town of Ajo should be working on. This great art is there; the town should be promoting it.
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