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.