Thursday, 18 February 1999

Just picture it

(image) A.E. Araiza,
The Arizona Daily Star
This mural at the intersection of Broadway and the Barraza-Aviation Parkway is one of four in the downtown art project


Group will dedicate photo murals with May 1 party

By Jill Jorden Spitz
The Arizona Daily Star

Don't worry about that bus speeding toward you in the Broadway and Barraza-Aviation Parkway underpass.

And never mind that old guy across the street, standing and staring, perpetually, into traffic.

The images are the beginning of Tucson's latest public art project - a series of photographic murals offering a black-and-white glimpse into the city's past.

The first mural, a stoic image of city father George Roskruge standing at the southeast corner of Broadway and Stone Avenue, is finished. Workers are now tackling the second photo mural, of a bus heading east through the now-demolished Broadway underpass in 1969.

The third mural will depict Congress Street in 1916, looking west from Sixth Avenue. The fourth, and largest, will be a montage of 14 vintage photos.

The montage will be unveiled, and the other murals formally dedicated, during ``Party at the Heart: A Downtown Celebration of Art, Music and History.''

The May 1 bash promises to be big: Organizers hope to close Broadway in one direction and erect a stage in the underpass.

There, they'll do the formal stuff and then surrender the stage to local swing and Latin bands. Making the scale even bigger, the party will be held in conjunction with an annual folk festival, a downtown Cinco de Mayo fiesta and the twice-monthly Downtown Saturday Night, co-organizer Pat Rogers said.

The party also will mark the premier of a photo book compiled by Stephen Farley, the local graphic artist whose photo mural idea won him the $171,000 Tucson-Pima Arts Council commission for the interchange project.

The book represents Farley's mighty struggle to narrow the field of 215 vintage photos submitted for the murals.

``I couldn't just choose 14,'' he said. ``There were too many good ones.''

To share the wealth, Farley gathered the photos and commissioned interviews by downtown-area teen-agers. Building on the success of those interviews, proceeds from the $20 book will launch a youth history organization, Farley said.

Farley's enthusiasm for the project has been high from the start, but is growing exponentially as the murals take shape.

Last week, he parked his car near the Broadway-Barraza intersection and walked down to the first mural, the one depicting George Roskruge, Tucson's first civil engineer.

He admired it from afar, then got so close it was just a bunch of abstract gray and black lines.

``It was really incredible to feel the solidity of the thing,'' he said. ``I knew what it was going to look like, but actually seeing it there has been a thrill.''


To donate money, services or labor for the May 1 ``Party at the Heart: A Downtown Celebration of Art, Music and History,'' call the Tucson Downtown Alliance at 547-3338.

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