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  • Polly Mitchell

Art for Everyone: Urban Murals in Downtown Phoenix



As an Urban Realtor, my Urban Living work often takes me to downtown Phoenix, and I get a lot of questions about the abundance of colorful and amazing murals that you see in the area. I’ve chosen March to focus on these urban treasures and let you know about two exciting events: Phoenix Mural Festival 2020 on March 7th and Oak Street Mural Festival on March 21st. Great ways to experience these local masterpieces on your own!

Downtown Phoenix has been experiencing a renaissance over the past ten years, and one of my favorite upshots of this development boom is the explosion of art and culture, specifically murals! This dramatic form of street art has been popping up all over downtown since the mid 2000’s. Look out from any high-rise office, industrial loft, or turn the corner of any city street in Central Phoenix and you’ll discover one of these larger than life paintings.

Murals are expressions of artists and society evoked through images and ideas painted directly onto buildings or walls. We tend to picture murals in outdoor spaces, but they can also live indoors. Officially planned or spontaneously sparked, murals may be the creation of a single street artist or a collaboration of local artists. Designed by students for a cause or commissioned by neighborhoods, cities, and businesses to enliven civic spaces, Murals are all of these things. United in this culture of expression, and having a message to convey, these accessible paintings become the pulse and voice of a community.


Even though murals are a very public form of art, they still feel intimate and personal. You are instantly drawn into their passionate and socially engaging themes, and by their sheer size and scale. These large, captivating artworks enliven urban spaces with color, beauty and power and transport you to a new view. By adding vibrancy, joy, social awareness and a sense of community to our buildings, our views, and the walls they inhabit, murals breathe fresh, new life into our often impersonal, urban landscapes.

While these large-scale artworks look very modern in style, their roots lie in a long-standing tradition of mural painting, now deeply interwoven with the local street and

graffiti art of today. From cave paintings to the lobbies of modern high-rises, from the Mexican Muralists to the WPA murals in our civic buildings, murals are some of our oldest and grandest expressions of storytelling, political beliefs and emotion. Influenced by the past but looking toward the future, they use these strengths to create a sense of place, inspiration and meaning for the people who live among them.


Many of the murals’ themes in downtown Phoenix are infused with significance and meaning to Hispanic, Latino, Mexican and Native American cultures and are designed and painted by muralists from these communities. While remaining true to their strong traditional backgrounds in mural and street art, these artists are heading in new and exciting directions, keeping the art fresh and ever-changing! Local, out-of-state, and

global artists make up this varied community of muralists, all contributing to the striking array of murals downtown. Sometimes even collaborating with schoolchildren, allowing them to feel part of the mural-making process too! With unique forms of expression and vivid styles of storytelling, all of these artists engage with us in their use of powerful images, socially charged themes, or by infusing their work with playful joy and energy (or creatively combining the two). ALL of them inspiring a new generation of artists!


The emotions expressed in these murals may whisper or shout, but their authenticity and visual impact make them always relatable. Emotions jump off of the walls into our environment and share with us the artists’ beliefs, passions and points of view. Love, anger, hope and despair. All of these easily readable and readily felt when we engage and connect with a mural. Most impactful of all is how this visual outlet of emotion can transform our big, busy, downtown areas into spaces that feel so much more personal and human. Connecting all of us as a Community.


Remember, if you want to experience these murals for yourself, check out Oak Street Mural Festival and Phoenix Mural Festival 2020 this March! Please head Downtown (or better yet, live downtown!!! in one of the many art-friendly urban areas like Roosevelt Row, the Warehouse District and Garfield DistrictJ). Enjoy our gorgeous spring weather and be inspired by the amazing muralists who “paint the town” with their spirit and personality in a very colorful and public way!

Great websites to learn more:

phoenixmuralproject.com

muralsofphoenix.com

muralfestphoenix.com

dtphxmurals.org

visitphoenix.rooseveltrowstreetart.com

phxnewtimesmurals2019.com

pollymitchell.com/blog

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