Preserving the Phoenix DeGrazia Murals: Here's What We Know
Portion of the larger Ettore "Ted" DeGrazia mural inside the 222 East Roosevelt building.
While the trio of petitioners who've so far gathered just over 900 signatures continue to hope for a final-hour reprieve on the fate of the building at 222 East Roosevelt, home of the GreenHaus until Cole and Dayna Reed move their business to Portland, there's no real reason to expect it won't be demolished. Still, there's some good news -- but bad news as well. Here's what we know:
Baron Properties of Denver, which is building a residential property at 222 East Roosevelt Street and an adjacent lot to the east on the corner of Roosevelt and Third streets, tells us that we'll all get a chance to see the building's two interior murals painted by Ted DeGrazia before the walls come tumbling down. The largest mural features various scenes of people making or using alcohol. It was signed by DeGrazia and dates from 1950, according to Dayna Reed, who says Baron Properties has been "very proactive and inquisitive regarding the murals." A smaller mural, depicting a dancer inside what's been described as both a champagne glass and a martini glass, is believed to have been painted at the same time.
Baron Properties' Scott Fisher says they'll be removing the temporary wall installed by the Reeds (which has covered the larger 40-foot mural during their tenure at the site) and inviting members of the public to view the DeGrazia murals during Art Detour, which takes place March 7 and 8.
Cole Reed says she suggested the idea to Baron Properties' Justin Sims several weeks ago, and that they agreed. "Though not 100 percent confirmed," says Dayna Reed, "it looks like the murals will be exposed and available for view by the public" during Art Detour. It's a nifty proposition, so we're pleased that Catrina Kahler, president of the Arlink Board of Directors, confirmed that Fisher has in fact contacted Artlink about making the DeGrazia murals available for viewing during the event.
Another section of the 40-foot long Ted DeGrazia mural located at 222 East Roosevelt.
Unlike the smaller DeGrazia mural that Lance Laber, executive director for the DeGrazia Foundation in Tucson, says can certainly be saved and removed, the larger DeGrazia mural poses something of a dilemma. Accurately assessing whether and how it can be saved requires that it be exposed so folks with expertise in such things can decipher what they're really dealing with material- and condition-wise.
Cole Reed says she's been criticized for keeping the mural covered, but it seems the alternative would be losing an entire wall of exhibit space they've long used to show works by local artists. And Dayna Reed understandably finds it odd that people who never expressed concern for DeGrazia's Phoenix murals before are so consumed with saving them now.
Laber notes that Baron Properties contacted him several months ago and expressed an interest in saving the murals and donating them to the Foundation, and says they even mentioned having money set aside to do so. But their good will was extended in the absence of facts about what the murals' preservation might cost.
Petitioner Robert Biehl says he's heard from local architects and builders who figure it'll cost $8,000 to $20,000 to preserve the larger DeGrazia mural. But Carmen F. Bria Jr., director and chief conservator with The Western Center for the Conservation of Fine Arts in Denver, offered an educated "guesstimate" based on large-scale murals he's been involved with preserving in Colorado -- and it's more than 10 times higher than what Biehl shared with us. Bria says it could cost $100,000 just to remove it, and another $150,000 to restore it and put it in its new space.
There's another uncertainty as well. Despite our request to Baron Properties for a timeline for construction of the new development (named "Illuminate" in plans filed with the city, and "iLuminate" in e-mails from Fisher), they've only specified that they'll be moving forward this spring, sometime after the Art Detour event. When Diehl told us he'd heard that Baron Properties applied late last week for demolition permits for the 222 building and its neighbor to the east, we realized the math might not be in Art Detour's favor.
The demolition permit policy and procedure handout, which is available to the public online, states, "A demolition permit shall expire and become null and void if the authorized work is not commenced within 30 days or completed within 60 days from the date of demolition permit issuance...." Our online search on January 13 didn't yield a recent demolition permit for 222 East Roosevelt (though several that never got used years ago are still on file), but Michelle Dodds, historic preservation officer with the City of Phoenix, confirmed that demolition permit requests for both buildings were filed on January 8.
So it seems that "starting in 30 days" wouldn't be compatible with an Art Detour reveal. And finishing within 60 days will require some speedy work if they're not starting demolition until after Art Detour. Fisher expects the first residents of the new development to move in during the fall of 2016.
More detail of the Ted DeGrazia mural at 222 East Roosevelt.
Finally, all this focus on DeGrazia's murals, whatever their real or perceived value from artistic and historical perspectives, has detracted from the fact that additional works by contemporary metro Phoenix artists will also be lost during demolition. Lauren Lee's Three Birds mural, which contributes mightily to the pride of place in Roosevelt Row, won't survive unless Baron Properties decides to retain the exterior wall that holds it. When asked whether they plan to invite Lee to create a mural for their new 222 building, Fisher responded by saying they "plan to commission a local artist to paint a mural on the front of the building," and added that they "anticipate local artists displaying their art in the building."
Dayna Reed says that JB Snyder's colorful abstract mural on the chimney of the 222 building's west-facing exterior will also be lost unless somehow removed and preserved. She also notes that two works by Eddie Sparr will be repurposed. His metal tree on a west exterior wall will be removed so the Reeds can take it with them to Portland, and his custom metal door "will be incorporated into the new building design." In every case, it's important to remember that our local, contemporary artists deserve no less respect than DeGrazia.
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