Large-Scale Custom Project

Steve Farley and Tile Canvases' Broadway Historic Photo Murals

In the late summer of 1997, artist and graphic designer Steve Farley approached Tile Canvases with a crazy idea for a completely new way of transferring photographic images to glazed ceramic tiles. Tom & Rick were just crazy enough to give Steve a chance to talk, and they all ended up creating a totally new process for producing large-scale photographic tile murals. At left is a 2'x2' prototype using this process depicting Lalo Guerrero on Congress Street, Tucson, in 1938.

Steve went on to win the highly sought-after commission to produce art for the 4-wall, 4,075 sq. ft. Broadway Traffic Interchange mural project (in downtown Tucson, AZ, and funded by the Tucson Transportation Department), and Tile Canvases used his art to fabricate the 15,000 six-inch tiles required to complete the job.

For background on the project, here is a 4/30/98 article published by the Arizona Daily Star and StarNet:

The project was completed and dedicated on May 1, 1999

Above is an actual view of fully installed Walls #4 and #1 viewed along Broadway looking to the west.

In case you missed it, here is Jill Jorden Spitz's 2/18/99 front-page Arizona Daily Star article, as it appeared in StarNet, complete with a photo of Wall #3 being installed:

All the walls are now completely installed, and was dedicated in a huge event called Party at the Heart: A Downtown Celebration of Art, Music and History, on Saturday, May 1, from 5pm to 9pm.

The Arizona Daily Star devoted over half of their May 3, 1999, front page to the event, and the web article is accessible here:

The largest wall, Wall #1, is 18 feet high and 158 feet wide and features the street photographs submitted by members of the Tucson public. The picture below shows the actual wall with installation nearly complete. Click on the photo to see a larger version of the art for the wall with the names of each person depicted.



Here are some views of Rick & Tom hard at work in their studio fabricating the first of the 15,000 tiles for the project, along with some new pictures of some of the fabriacted tiles.

Rick and an assistant focus on glazing the tiny details on each unique tile.

Here are fabricated tiles from the middle of Wall 2, as laid out on the ground. This wall, which depicts Congress Street looking west from Sixth Avenue around 1916, will be installed some time in February. Note the different forms of transportation from left to right: the private car, the pedestrian, and the electric trolley.


These fabricated tiles from the middle of Wall 3 show the 8-Broadway bus emerging from the old Broadway tunnel in 1969. It will be installed on location in early February.


"Party at the Heart": The Dedication Celebration...

The May 1, 1999, celebration for the mural dedication, called "Party at the Heart: a Downtown Celebration of Art, Music and History," was organized by Steve Farley and planned by a coalition of people from the City, the County, and downtown businesses, neighborhoods and non-profits. The celebration took place in conjunction with Downtown Saturday Night and the 14th Tucson Folk Festival, and will include Lalo Guerrero fronting a 7-piece swing band, other local swing bands, antique car shows, dancing, booths, special secret guests, and much, much more.

The westbound lanes of Broadway were closed to traffic from Euclid to 4th Avenue in order to place a stage in the underpass opposite Wall #1. On this stage at 5:00pm the dedication ceremony took place, featuring stories from each of the people featured on the wall (or a representative from their family). From 6:00 to 6:45pm Howard Beaver's 65-piece Tucson Concert Band performed 1940s dance music; from 7:00 to 7:45pm local swing band the Kings of Pleasure played with dancers from the Ballet Folklorico Arizona doing zoot-suit dancing; and from 8:00 to 9:00 native son and musical legend Lalo Guerrero took the stage with son Mark Guererro and the Second Generation Band, a 7-piece swing combo.

The event was a huge success; over 2,000 people attended the very emotional dedication and, in all, around 20,000 people came Downtown to enjoy a real sense of community all over Downtown, a sense which will hopefully bring people downtown again and again to experience the joys of having fun and meeting your neighbors of all backgrounds in a truly public space. For the Arizona Daily Star's coverage of the event see:

Snapped on the Street: The Street Photos Book...

Steve's non-profit umbrella group received over $50,000 from various generous donors to print a 144-page book which include all of the street photographs he received during his call to the public. Choosing only 14 photos for the wall was one of the most difficult tasks of his life, and he really wanted to be able to showcase all of the photos, each one of which is amazing, and the entire body of which is an important document of what Downtown Tucson was like during the middle decades of the 20th century.

He received some of the funding from Fred Ronstadt's Ward 6 City Council office for an after-school job program for five Tucson teenagers from Downtown neighborhoods to interview nearly 100 of the people who contributed photos. In this way the teens, with project coordinator Regina Kelly, have created an oral history of Downtown to accompany the photos.

The money for printing and designing 7,000 copies of the book was raised purely through private donations and public grants. The proceeds from sales of the resulting book are now being used to create a new non-profit organization called "Voices: Community Stories Past & Present" to run after-school and summer youth job programs in historical research while at the same time connecting youth with elders and preserving Tucson's disappearing oral history resources.

The book, Snapped on the Street: A Community Archive of Photos and Memories from Downtown Tucson 1937-1963, is now done and printed, and can be obtained in a number of ways:

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Entire site and contents copyright 1999 Tile Canvases.