Say Goodbye to Ted DeGrazia and Lauren Lee's Roosevelt Row Murals

Lauren Lee's Three Birds mural will be lost to demolition. But it's not all bad news.
Lauren Lee's Three Birds mural will be lost to demolition. But it's not all bad news.
Lynn Trimble

After Cole and Dayna Reed closed their Phoenix GreenHAUS and relocated to Portland, windows that once allowed passersby to peek into the building at 222 E. Roosevelt were covered. It wasn't apparent from the street, but interior demolition of the building began on February 12. Baron Properties, the company that bought the 222 property and a neighboring structure, will tear down the buildings to make way for a 111-unit apartment complex called iLuminate. Despite public outcry, including a protest and an online petition, only the smaller of two Ted DeGrazia murals, the one portraying a dancer, inside the 222 building will be salvaged.

DeGrazia painted the murals, the larger of which depicts the history of alcohol, more than a half-century ago. The public will be able to see both of them during Art Detour on Saturday and Sunday, March 6 and 7. Baron authorized Artlink to include the murals on the 2015 Art Detour line-up. Lauren Lee's Three Birds mural also will be destroyed in the demolition of the 222 building. The exterior piece was commissioned by the Reeds when they first opened their gallery and boutique.

See also: The Fight to Keep Downtown Phoenix "Authentic" Is a Fight to Let It Become Something It's Never Been

Turns out there's some happy news on that front. Lee spoke with Jackalope Ranch by phone on Wednesday, March 4, and shared that she's been commissioned by Baron Properties to create a new mural of three birds in flight for the west-facing wall of the iLuminate housing development coming to the corner of Roosevelt and Third Streets. She's sent them a contract, according to Fisher, but they have yet to sign it. Lee's Baron Properties contact Chris Murdy says it's a "handshake deal" at this point.

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Before the Reeds left town, they told us Lee had mentioned wanting to paint a new mural for the new building. Lee envisioned painting three birds in flight, but we suspected it wouldn't come to pass because Fisher told us that Baron Properties' planned to issue some sort of call to artists for new artwork to grace part of the new development. It appears a happy coincidence may have turned the tide.

One day Lee popped into the GreenHAUS to present the Reeds with a 36-by-12-inch acrylic painting of Three Birds that the Reeds commissioned for their new home in Portland. Murdy was also there at the time, recalls Lee, who says she sprung her birds in flight idea on him. After meeting and talking design details, Lee, Murdy, and one of Murdy's associates settled on a design that mirrors the clean, modern feel of the iLuminate development.

Lee will have a table set up at the former GreenHAUS from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, so folks can swing by to see a "mock-up painting" of her new design, which features a dark mustard yellow background and birds painted in various shades of red. The design consists of three separate 10-foot by 10-foot birds, which will be framed in steel, and run vertically along the wall facing monOrchid. Lee says they'll be lit at night in keeping with the iLuminate theme, which sounds like it will also make for a bit of new way-finding in Roosevelt Row. She's looking for a place to fabricate the birds this summer, and says the earliest they're likely to be installed is late fall.

Lee will be selling 12- by-18-inch posters of her original Three Birds mural, which could come down as early as next week, while she's there on Saturday. Lee says she doesn't yet know the date they'll do the demolition work effecting her original mural, but notes that Murdy plans to call and alert her so she can be there and film a time-lapse sequence. We asked Fisher for a demolition date, but he's told us only that it'll be sometime soon after the DeGrazia Foundation folks come in to remove the smaller mural located inside.

iLuminate rendering with Lauren Lee birds artwork on a western wall.
iLuminate rendering with Lauren Lee birds artwork on a western wall.
Courtesy of Lauren Lee

 

The larger DeGrazia mural inside 222 East Roosevelt depicts the history of alcohol. It will become history itself as early as next week.
The larger DeGrazia mural inside 222 East Roosevelt depicts the history of alcohol. It will become history itself as early as next week.
Catherine Slye

Lance Laber, executive director for the DeGrazia Foundation, made the trek from Tucson to Phoenix last week with his collections manager so he could see each of the DeGrazia murals: one a 40-foot long mural depicting a history of making alcohol, and the other mural five feet tall or so that depicts a dancer inside a glass. Laber hasn't brought in any experts to assess the costs of preserving and relocating the mural, but notes that estimates approaching a quarter of a million dollars have been given by others.

In a perfect world, he says, Baron Properties would retain the wall that holds the larger DeGrazia mural. But he recognizes that's not likely to happen even as he praises the developers for trying to work with him on mural preservation issues. His second choice, were someone to wave a magic wand, would be seeing a funder come forward to pay for the preservation and relocation of the larger mural -- adding that he'd happily give the funder the smaller mural to go with it.

Laber has plans to cut the smaller mural out of the building once Fisher gives the go-ahead, then wrap it and haul it back to the Degrazia Gallery of the Sun, where it would likely be exhibited for a short time before joining other items in their 15,000-piece collection that are now in storage.

However, he'd rather the smaller mural stay in Phoenix, at or near the site where DeGrazia painted it. Fisher also says he'd prefer to see the mural stay in Phoenix, but told us on Wednesday, March 4, that no one had expressed an interest locally in either displaying it at their venue or in having it displayed at iLuminate.

Those with a nostalgic bent can look forward to seeing the giant metal tree that once graced a corner near the front door of GreenHAUS installed at the new location for Songbird at 812 North Third Street, a home built in 1904 that they're hoping to relocate to come late March or early April. And Fisher says we'll see the large metal front door of the former GreenHAUS repurposed in iLuminate.

And Lee has one more bit of exciting news to share: The Reeds are already planning to commission her to paint a mural for their new GreenHAUS location opening later this year in Portland.

As for additional art possibly coming to iLuminate, Fisher says he's enlisted Artlink to help make it happen.

See also: Here's Your Guide to Art Detour 27 in Phoenix

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