Tag Archives: Mesa

Mural on the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum

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In the spring of 2016, I lived briefly in Mesa, Arizona while working nearby. One afternoon after my money job was over for the day, I went downtown to explore the public art. I saw art depicting a Big Pink Chair, a girl reading a book, and a toddler feeding ducks. I really appreciate public art and the way it levels the playing field by allowing everyone from all socio-economic levels to experience and enjoy what others have created.

As I passed the Mesa Arts Center, I saw a huge mural on the wall of the Center’s Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. I didn’t realize at the time that the mural was brand spanking new.

When I did some research on the mural, I got a lot of information about it from a Phoenix New Times article by Lynn Trimble called “El Mac on His New Two-Story Mural at Mesa Arts Center, Inspiration, and Collaboration.”

  • The mural was painted by El Mac, “one of the world’s most noted street artists” who has ties to the Phoenix area but now lives in LA.
  • The woman depicted in the mural is an old friend of the artist.
  • “The mural was done completely with aerosol enamel paint, and a specific type of cap that helps give his work its characteristic pattern of circles and lines” and was completed in March of 2016.

I love the gentle beauty of this mural and the way the color of the rose pops against the dark contours of the woman’s features. I love seeing a woman of color (the model is originally from Guatamala) looming larger-than-life over museum patrons. It’s a lovely piece, and I think it adds some street cred to a part of town which could easily be mistaken to be primarily for white folks.

I took the photos in this post.

 

Random Art in Downtown Mesa, AZ

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Our day in Mesa started at Lost Dutchman Cafe (12 N. Center Street ) where we met a friend of mine who was living in the area. As we left the coffeeshop, Nolagirl spotted two brightly decorated electrical boxes. You know it’s a pretty cool part of town when even the utility hardware is turned into works of art.

I’d been on a self-guided art tour of downtown Mesa in the spring of 2016, and now Nolagirl and I were walking around on Main Street in March of 2018. We’d just left the Sparks! event at the Arts Center, and we were looking for the Big Pink Chair. I love the Big Pink Chair, and I was hoping Nolagirl could take some photos of me sitting in it. During our walk up and down (or was that down and up?) Main Street, we saw several pieces of public art, some I’d seen in 2016 and some brand new.

As we headed to the Arts Center early in the day,  I noticed this Mesa mural painted in the style of an old-school postcard. I particularly like the saguaro and mountain scene painted in the “M.” This mural is across the street from Milano Music Center, and I took some photos while I was standing in front of the music store, but they didn’t look so good. I took this photo in the afternoon when I ened up right in front of the mural.

The artist is Ericka Jaynes, and you can find her on Facebook.

Down the street, we saw another mural I’d admired inthe past. This one is called Mesa Mural.

The way the sun hits it on spring afternoons makes it very difficult to photograph because the lighting is uneven. If I were a better photographer, I’d probably know how to even out the shadows and light. Nolagirl and I decided the best time to capture the mural is probably in the morning, during the golden hour, before the sun and surrounding buildings work together to cast shadows on it.

I’ll go ahead and share my 2016 photo of the mural, even though it’s not perfect.

According to the Waymarking website, the mural is located at 63 W Main Street and the artist is Lauren Lee. Lee’s website says,

This mural was completed in August 2015, commissioned by the City of Mesa and Downtown Mesa Association.

That Sunday afternoon was a good day for murals. Near where Downtown Mesa’s Permanent Sculpture Collection ends, we saw this mural decorating the side of a building. (The mural actually wraps around to the front too.)

I like the wavy, funhouse mirror quality of the scene. Is the fantasy building going to fall down? Will it quiver but continue to stand? Did the building do psychedelics or is it the viewer who’s chemically altered? Maybe the artist was on drugs or maybe the idea for this building came from a fever vision. In any case, I think it’s a fun mural.

An October 2012 article in the East Valley Tribune answers many questions about the mural. The building it graces was once the Eclectic Monkey Emporium, a second-hand clothing store. No drugs were involved in the idea for the mural; the building in the painting is supposed to be melting, as in from the heat. The artists who created this hot but cool mural are R.E. Wall and Margaret Dewar.

Outside the Smith-O-Lator cookie shop (124 West Main Street), two pieces of art decorate two columns in front of the store.

The first was created by public participation during an art event in downtown Mesa. Used 16 oz. plastic water bottles were cut open, painted, then attached close together to look like a patch of flowers growing out of the building. I love the texture (how cool that old plastic bottles can look fluffy!), and I was impressed by how well the color has held up to the Arizona sun and heat.

Next to the installation of water bottle flowers is a painting of a mermaid, or more accurately, half a mermaid.  She is delightful, although I don’t know who painted her or under what circumstances. (When I enlarge the photo, I can see see what appears to be the remnants of letters on the bottom of the painting, but they’re too faint for me to read them.) How does she fit into the landscape of downtown Mesa? Maybe the artist longed for the sea while being stuck in the desert.

Not far down the sidewalk is a painted scene that is a better fit for a desert town. I love that big saguaro reaching up to the cloudy sky and the purple mountains in the background. I also love the sense of anticipation I get from this piece. Is there a storm brewing? Will there be rain?

I can’t tell if the names in the white paint on the bottom right of the piece is the artist’s signature or ramdom tagging. Can anyone solve the mystery of who created this bit of urban art?

The last piece of art I saw as we continued walking on Main Street was an old favorite. I’d first seen it in 2016, which is when I took this photo.

 

The creator of this piece is Kyllan Maney. Her artist statement says

[t]he visual foundation of Kyllan’s work is rooted in scientific illustrations, religious icons, human relationships and inspiration from past and current artists.

I love that the dove is also a map of Mesa. “YOU ARE HERE” the map says, in a place of love and peace. Mesa can be a place of drugs and crime, heat and desperation, but in this piece Maney reminds us that art can be a kind of sanctuary.

I took all the photos in this post.

Little Free Library in Mesa, AZ

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Sometimes I go looking for Little Free Libraries, and sometimes they surprise me. The Little Free Library Nolagirl and I found one Sunday afternoon in Mesa, AZ was a complete surprise.

We were in town for the Spark! event at the Mesa Arts Center. We weren’t surprised to find all the parking spots close to the Arts Center taken, so we had to venture farther to find a place to put the car. Nolagirl settled on the free lot behind the Milano Music Center.

This piano was on the Main Street edge of the pocket park last time I was there.

We can walk through the park with the blocks, she said as we gathered our things and locked the car doors.

I didn’t know what she was talking about until we walked up to the pocket park in the narrow area between two buildings.

Oh, I’ve been here! I said. There was a Play Me, I’m Yours piano the last time I was here.

The piano was gone (all of the Play Me, I’m Yours pianos seem to be gone from Mesa), but the artificial turf and the large, colorful blocks were still there.

Is this grass fake? I asked. Nolagirl said it was, and we both laughed. Why put down fake grass in a pocket park in an alley? Oh, the mysteries of Mesa.

Little Free Library in a pocket park off Main Street in downtown Mesa

I don’t remember who spotted the Little Free Library first, but we were both happy to see it. We’ve gone Little Free Library hunting together; we both think the gift economy of books they facilitate is great.

This Little Free Library in Taos, NM is made from an old newspaper vending machine.

Nolagirl was especially pleased to see this Little Free Library was repurposed from a container that once housed free reading material one often finds in cities. She and her husband are both in the newspaper business, and she said they’ve discussed repurposing discarded metal newspaper boxes into Little Free Libraries. I told her about the Little Free Libraries I’d seen in Taos, NM made from old metal newspaper boxes. Her idea is being implemented!

The Little Free Library in the Mesa pocket park was a renegade. It didn’t have an an official charter sign or charter number. Someone had come up with the the old dispenser and painted “Little Free Library” and “Take a Book or Leave a Book” on it, but hadn’t registered with the Little Free Library organization or paid for a charter sign. I do appreciate the Little Free Library organization, but I also love grassroots efforts done on the cheap, so I love renegadae Little Free Libraries too. It’s not necessary to be registered to get books to the people!

There were several magazines and a few books in this Little Free Library.

(However, registrations does bring benefits, including the option to add the library to the Little Free Library world map which makes it easier for patrons to find and visit the library.)

There were a few book in the library, as well as some back issues of Sports Illustrated. (What a great way to pass on magazines after reading them!) I didn’t need any of the reading material, so I didn’t take anything. I wished I had some books to donate to the library, but all of the books I was ready to part with were in my van. This time my only contribution would be documentation.

I hope the Little Free Library stays in that pocket park for a good long time. I hope folks who find it continue to take books and leave books too.

I took all the photos in this post.

Scrap Book Boy

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Scrap Book Boy by Tom Bollinger,

When I first saw the Scrap Book Boy sculpture on Main Street (between Robson and Macdonald streets) in the Mesa, AZ permanent downtown collection, I thought it was a companion piece to Booked for the Day. In the former piece, a young boy rests on his stomach looking at a big book, while in the later piece a girl sits on a bench reading. I wondered if they were by the same artist. A little research showed me the two sculptures are not related except by proximity.

Dan Hill created Booked for the Day, and the creator of Scrap Book

Booked for the Day by Dan Hill

Boy is Tom Bollinger. Also, Scrap Book Boy seems to be a one of a kind piece, while different versions of Booked for the Day are on display in more than half a dozen cities.

Tom Bollinger’s biography calls him

a visual artist, living and working near Phoenix, Arizona. Born in North Dakota. Bollinger is a self-described “Sculptor”. He is inspired by his observations and life experiences and inspired by what he describes as the “hoped for..” in humanity. Bollinger seeks, by way of his exploration, to discover what is beneath the surface of what we are and what we see.

I was unable to find much information about Scrap Book Boy online. Bollinger’s list of Commissions and Placement referes to it as

Boy with Book, cast bronze, life size figure, Public Art Program, Mesa, AZ.

However, the plaque on the ground next to the young boy looking at the book uses the name Scrap Book Boy and tells a sad story of the loss of Bollinger’s younger brother.

Upon closer inspection of the book, you really can see the pictures etched from the original scrapbook owned by the senior Bollinger.

So while this piece of art commemorates the sad loss of a child, it also incorporates a cool technique that lets the viewer share in parts of the family history.

To learn more about public art in Mesa, view the brochure that goes along with the self-guided tour of the city’s sculpture collection. You can also read other posts I’ve written about public art in Mesa like the Big Pink Chair, the Mesa Pioneer Monument, Quackers, and Humpty Dumpty.

I took all the photos in this post.

Mesa Pioneer Monument

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Pioneers in Mesa’s Pioneer Park

The last time I lived in Mesa, AZ, I visited the city’s Pioneer Park at 26 E Main Street. Near the southern entrance to the park is the Pioneer Monument.

In an article on the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titled “Statue Honoring Arizona Pioneers Dedicated,” the history of the statue is told. In the mid-80s, sculptor Claude Pomeroy was in Pioneer Park and heard someone suggest its name be changed to Rose Garden Park. Pomeroy

decided to make sure Mesa’s residents didn’t forget their colorful pioneer heritage.

[T]he four leaders of the First Mesa Company of 1878 [are] depicted by the statue.

Charles I. Robson, George W. Sirrine, Charles Crismon, and the sculptor’s grandfather, Francis Martin Pomeroy, were portrayed holding the tools they labored with: a shovel, a gun, a spirit level, and a map of the townsite.

A woman and a boy, referred to in the article as well as on the plaque on display with the sculpture only as “mother and child” are behind the male settlers. I suppose this means the women and the children present during this time in Mesa’s history are not real pioneers, they’re more of an afterthought, those whose places are behind the real (male) pioneers. I supppose this means only the men and their work were important.

Did the sculptor not know of any real women and children of the time to base his work on? Perhaps he could have used his own grandmother as a pioneer model, as he used his grandfather.

Surely Pomeroy could have included female pioneers in his work if he had chosen to. The women could have been portrayed holding the tools they labored with: a butter churn perhaps, an iron, a spoon and cooking pot, a needle and thread. Women’s work has always been important and it’s terrible that history and artists like Pomeroy have ignored that work.

I apologize to the unnamed pioneer woman pictured here for relegating her to the shadows. My arm placement was rather unfortunate in light of my desire to have the pioneer women of Mesa given their due.

Am I surprised that a piece of public art made by a artist who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and depicting people of the same religion relegate a woman and child to the back of the crowd? Am I surprised that female ancestors are not given the same respect as male ancestors? Am I surprised the ratio of men to women in the statue is 4 to 1? Am I surprised that women and their work are mostly ignored? I’m not surprised by any of those facts, but I am still disappointed.

A second plaque on display with the sculpture does a better job of being inclusive. It states,

This monument is dedicated to the founding men, women, and children of Mesa whose efforts, with others of all races, religions, and cultures, changed a harsh desert land into this vibrant cit of today.

I would like to see another artist come along and get a grant from the city to make a second monument for the park. In the new monument, women would stand tall and proud next to their husbands and sons, fathers and brothers. The new statue could be called Women Were Pioneers Too, and the women depicted could stand with a butter churn, a spoon and cooking pot, a needle and thread, and an iron.

While I’m wishing, I’d also like to see a third piece of art, this one depicting the men and women native to the area, as well as the

others of all races, religions, and cultures, [who] changed a harsh desert land into this vibrant cit of today…

mentioned earlier. It’s time to stop honoring only the white people (usually men) who came into an area and made it their own. If we’re going to honor people, we need to be diverse and inclusive.

I took the photos in this post.

Motels of Mesa

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The Hiway Host Motel sign on Main Street in Mesa, AZ.

The Hiway Host Motel sign on Main Street in Mesa, AZ.

On a multi-block strip of Main Street in Mesa, Arizona, one can find several old motels. The rates are cheap (especially for folks who go the weekly or monthly route) and the living can be rough. Yes, it’s a part of the city I wouldn’t care to walk in alone after dark (although I have before). Many of the folks walking around the area seem to dabble in (or perhaps concentrate on) methamphetamine, which leads me to refer to the neighborhood places of lodging as “meth motels.”

img_5963As is often the case, it wasn’t always this way. Main Street in Mesa was once part of U.S. Route 80. According to a vintage postcard website,

U. S. Highway 80 was one of the original Federal Highways commissioned in 1926 along with some of its more famous newly numbered cousins such as U. S. 66 – “The Mother Road”, U. S. 30 – “The Lincoln Highway”, and U. S. 40 – “The National Highway…”

[I]t was probably more important [than the other, more famous, named highways mentioned above] because it was an all-weather, all-year route that was dependable to transcontinental travelers.

Wikipedia says,

U.S. Route 80 (US 80) also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway was a major transcontinental highway which existed in the U.S. state of Arizona from November 11, 1926 to October 6, 1989.[2][4] At its peak, US 80 traveled from the California border in Yuma to the New Mexico state line near Lordsburg...[5]

Low weekly rates appeal to the modern clientele on Mesa's Main Street.

Low weekly rates and kitchenettes at the Trava-Leers Motel probably appeal to the modern clientele on Mesa’s Main Street.

US 80 was a particularly long highway, reaching almost 500 miles (800 km) long within the state of Arizona alone.[7] With the advent of the Interstate Highway System, Interstate 10 and Interstate 8 both replaced US 80 within the state.[8] US 80 was removed from Arizona in 1989; the remainder of it now being State Route 80.[5]

The folks who named this hotel didn't know--or didn't care--that kivas are used religiously and people from the Pueblo tribes don't wear feather headdresses.

The folks who named this hotel and designed the sign didn’t know–or didn’t care–that kivas are used religiously and people from the Pueblo tribes don’t wear feather headdresses.

 

In a 2012 article about preservation of the neon history on Main Street in Mesa, president of the Mesa Preservation Foundation Victor Linoff said,

I think "refrigerated" meant "air conditioned."

I think “refrigerated” meant “air conditioned.”

From quite a distance, you’re traveling in your car, you’re tired, you want to stop for the night or get something to eat. These signs pulled you in. They were like beacons in the night.

In the aforementioned article, Demion Clinco, president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, said of neon signs,

They are emblematic of the classic automobile age in America, [t]hat mid-century modern highway culture that just doesn’t exist anymore.

Not all of the old motels on Main Street have neon signs. Maybe some of them never had neon and simply relied on their competitors’ signs to draw enough people into the general area. There were probably enough drivers passing through to ensure every business got a piece of the pie.  Some neon signs have been lost to the ravages of time. At least a couple of the motels lacking cool signs still boast cool architecture.

This photo shows a view of the Citrus Inn. There are parking spots for cars between the rooms.

This photo shows a view of the Citrus Inn. There are parking spots for cars between the rooms. The Citrus Inn has a really boring, modern sign, but its architecture is old-fashioned cool.

I particularly like the motels with parking spaces between the rooms. The Citrus Inn is designed this way. The open space between the two rooms is big enough for two cars. A covered parking area is a huge luxury for anyone whose car would otherwise be pounded by the Arizona summer sun.

I think this photo shows the Kiva Lodge, but I'm not positive. In any case, it's another example a motel with covered parking next to the rooms. I also like the turquoise accents and the red Spanish tile on the awning.

I think this photo shows the Kiva Lodge, but I’m not positive. In any case, it’s another example a motel with covered parking next to the rooms. I also like the turquoise accents and the red Spanish tile on the awning.

The motels of Mesa and their signs are part of Arizona history and U.S. history too. They are relics of a time before motel chains, when each motel on the road was part of a unique travel experience.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

Maggie Kuhn

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In the third post about the Play Me, I’m Yours piano installation in Mesa, AZ, I mentioned one of the reasons for writing given on the piano presented by Phonetic Spit was this: I write to speak my mind, even when my voice shakes.

I knew I’d seen some variation of the quote before, but who’d said it? Audre Lorde? Alice Walker? I did a Google search and found Maggie Kuhn was the woman who gave us those words.

Who’s Maggie Kuhn? I didn’t know either, until I did a little reading up on her.

According to http://womenshistory.about.com/cs/quotes/a/maggie_kuhn.htm,

Maggie Kuhn is best known for founding the organization often called the Gray Panthers [officially known at first as the Consultation of Older and Younger Adults for Social Change], a social activist organization raising issues of justice and fairness for older Americans. She is credited with the passage of laws prohibiting forced retirement and with reform in health care and nursing home oversight.

The Wikipedia article about Kuhn tells more about the work she and the Gray Panthers did.

In 1970, although [Kuhn] was working at a job she loved with the Presbyterian Church, she was forced to retire the day she turned 65 because of the mandatory retirement law then in effect. That year, she banded together with other retirees and formed the Gray Panthers movement. Seeing all issues of injustice as inevitably linked, they refused to restrict themselves to elder rights activism, but focused also on peace, presidential elections, poverty, and civil liberties. Their first big issue was opposition to the Vietnam War.

The Gray Panthers’ motto was “Age and Youth In Action,” and many of its members were high school and college students. Kuhn believed that teens should be taken more seriously and given more responsibility by society.

Kuhn raised controversy by openly discussing the sexuality of older people, and shocked the public with her assertion that older women, who outlive men by an average of 8 years, could develop sexual relationships with younger men or each other.

I couldn’t find any information about when or where Kuhn said or wrote her famous words advising us to speak our minds, but I did find the longer quote of which these words are part. The Presbyterian Historical Society gives the longer quote as

Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind–even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.

I suspect Maggie Kuhn would be quite pleased to know young people remembered her sentiment and wrote it on a piano in an Arizona town for all to see.