Wiley Wallace at the Tempe Urban Garden

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It's about time Phoenix sees some serious mural love. In the interest of giving credit to their artists and because we're losing track of the times we've said, "Woah, when did that go up?", we bring you Mural City, a series on the murals springing up around town -- their artists, their hosts and their inspirations.

What used to be on the corner of Fifth Street and Forrest Avenue in Tempe? Oh yeah, Bandersnatch. But a few years ago the owners closed the doors forever and the building sat vacant until a developer came forward with big plans. The building was demolished shortly thereafter. 

Months passed and the plans for an 11-story Marriott Residence Inn on that site continued to be pushed back. But creative minds from the Downtown Tempe Community partnered with GreenZona, Gro-Well Arizona, Desert Appeal, Caffe Boa Chef, Payton Curry. Together, they envisioned a Tempe Urban Garden.

The City of Tempe agreed to the project on one condition: the mural and its garden be temporary, so that in the future, the lot could still be developed.

A public art component was in the founding plans of the Urban Garden and while 12 local artists applied to contribute their work, Wiley Wallace and his "Growing Garden" mural were ultimately selected by a committee of other local artists, members of the Tempe Arts Commission and by members of the Tempe community.

Wiley's budget: $500. His canvas: the garden's adjoining 25-by-25-foot parking-lot wall.

Wallace is of the rare Arizona-native breed. After receiving his bachelor's in inter-media arts at ASU, he left for California masters in fine arts from University of California, Santa Barbara. We (and the garden's many tenders) are just happy he came back.

His surrealist mural draws attention to the garden below. Wallace says the rich colors illustrate the cyclical story of gardening, from sowing seeds, to nurturing and the eventual harvest and use, at least temporarily.

For now, Wallace and the Tempe Urban Garden know the mural will be removed in 3 to 5 years, when the City's plans for the Marriott are eventually realized. 

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