Art

New Murals by Phoenix Artists Bring Color and Life to the City

Untitled Matt Minjares (Mr. Matt) mural on Seventh Street.
Untitled Matt Minjares (Mr. Matt) mural on Seventh Street. Lynn Trimble


In Phoenix, murals have been a part of the urban landscape for years, often reflecting the shifting nature of communities and the interests of those who call the city home. A decade ago, murals decrying anti-immigrant SB 1070 legislation helped bring mural scenes like Calle 16 to life. Today, a new crop of murals is elevating the Black Lives Matter movement and calls to end police brutality, as well as public health concerns wrought by the rampant spread of COVID-19.

In areas like Roosevelt Row and Grand Avenue especially, you can find murals everywhere — in alleyways, on office buildings, in restaurants, and on walls that line busy streets. In these semi-quarantined times, they’re a reminder that artists live among us. They’re also one of the only ways to experience art these days because most traditional art spaces are temporarily closed and traditional events like First Friday are taking a pandemic pause.



click to enlarge By Lalo Cota and Tato Caraveo, at Carly’s Bistro in Roosevelt Row. - LYNN TRIMBLE
By Lalo Cota and Tato Caraveo, at Carly’s Bistro in Roosevelt Row.
Lynn Trimble

Among the new murals in Roosevelt Row is a collaboration called We Can End Gun Violence. Two of the Valley’s best-known muralists, Lalo Cota and Tato Caraveo, painted the mural on the east-facing wall of the building that’s home to Carly’s Bistro, which commissioned the mural with a group called Moms Demand Action. But keep an eye on the west-facing wall of that same building — it’s a canvas that changes frequently as various artists create new art in the space.

click to enlarge A mural wrap in Roosevelt Row featuring art by Debra Hurd and Carrie Marill. - LYNN TRIMBLE
A mural wrap in Roosevelt Row featuring art by Debra Hurd and Carrie Marill.
Lynn Trimble

At Roosevelt Street and Central Avenue, you’ll find one of several mural wraps that signal the growing footprint of developers on the local arts scene. It’s installed on the Ten-O-One building owned by True North Studio. Debra Hurd created the giant portrait of former president Theodore Roosevelt that anchors the design, and Carrie Marill created a repeating pattern of crisp geometric lines. For the mural wrap, a Tempe-based fabricator created large-format photos of the artists’ designs, so the artwork could be installed on the building’s glass walls without the artists having to paint their pieces on site.

click to enlarge Detail of a collaborative Black Lives Matter mural on Third Street in Roosevelt Row. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Detail of a collaborative Black Lives Matter mural on Third Street in Roosevelt Row.
Lynn Trimble

Heading north of Roosevelt on Third Street, several artists collaborated to paint a Black Lives Matter mural on a wall that once sported musical theater scenes painted by Ray Sproule. Look for more social justice murals in the alley behind Modified Arts, and a strip of 15th Avenue north of the Arizona State Capitol. There’s a small mural dedicated to Dion Johnson — a Black man killed by a Department of Public Safety trooper on May 25 — in Phoenix on Seventh Street north of McDowell Road, where you’ll also find pieces by Tyson Krank and an artist who goes by Mr. Matt.

click to enlarge By Robert Gentile and El Spawk at Grand ArtHaus. - LYNN TRIMBLE
By Robert Gentile and El Spawk at Grand ArtHaus.
Lynn Trimble

There’s plenty of new work along Grand Avenue, as well. Robert Gentile and El Spawk paid homage to essential workers by painting the image of a nurse, her mouth concealed by a blue mask, on a small space at Grand ArtHaus. The artist Clyde, who prefers to use a single name, painted a woman’s portrait using primarily shades of red for an apartment building in the area, and Caraveo painted the image of artist Salvador Dali flanked by animals on {9} The Gallery.


click to enlarge Untitled bacpac mural, Grand Avenue. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Untitled bacpac mural, Grand Avenue.
Lynn Trimble
One of the Valley’s most prolific muralists, Jeremie “bacpac” Franco, painted a small piece featuring a skeleton figure with a hawk at Hawk Salvage on Grand Avenue, not far from the billboard where Karen Fiorito recently covered her Trumpocalypse design with new voting-themed artwork. At Desert Sun Plaza, Diana Calderon
has painted a mural with a lone runner inspired by her Mexican roots.

click to enlarge Gema by Edgar Fernandez, in Gilbert. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Gema by Edgar Fernandez, in Gilbert.
Lynn Trimble

Of course, murals are also going up in other areas, including south Phoenix, midtown, and the Melrose curve. Keep an eye on downtown Phoenix, where the Hyatt Regency Phoenix has a new, desert-scene mural by Jane Goat. If you head to Gilbert, check out a new mural featuring profiles of five women of color by Edgar Fernandez and Sam Fresquez. In Mesa, keep an eye out for La Morena’s new, 100-foot mural addressing homelessness.

click to enlarge Murals painted at Barrio Cafe in Calle 16 during the early days of COVID-19. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Murals painted at Barrio Cafe in Calle 16 during the early days of COVID-19.
Lynn Trimble

At Barrio Café, artists including Pablo Luna and Angel Diaz have been painting both inside and out. There’s new work just off the roof, and various walls are works in progress, which makes Barrio one of the best places to observe new murals taking shape. When the pandemic struck in mid-March, artists filled the front of the building with text-based works reading “We Shall Rise” and “Be Safe Be Kind.”

Finding murals during your everyday travels is half the fun, but following your favorite muralists on social media is helpful if you like to be a bit more deliberate about exploring local art. Dozens of talented artists beyond those we’ve named here have been out there making work this year, tackling the ideas and issues at the forefront of community dialogue and action. Keep your pulse on their work, and you’ll get closer to finding the heart of Phoenix.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble