Downtown Phoenix Murals

Written by Keridwen Cornelius Category: Arts Issue: September 2011

One of the most famous muralists in the world – he’s been commissioned to paint works in numerous countries from Sweden to Singapore – is Phoenix artist El Mac. Born Miles MacGregor in L.A., the elusive, peripatetic 31-year-old looks more like a member of the Geek Squad than a graffiti artist. He’s known for creating enormous, lifelike portraits characterized by detailed shadowing, all without the aid of sketching. He has painted several murals in Phoenix, including this one at Universal Hair Salon on Grand and 10th avenues.


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The rainbow-hued people shoving down a Berlin-esque wall hint at the title of this 95-foot-long mural on Roosevelt and 11th streets: “Knowledge Breaks Down Barriers Created by Ignorance.” L.A. artist Raul Gonzalez – who founded Mictlan Murals to combat gang graffiti and violence with art – designed and painted the aerosol artwork in summer 2010, along with youth from central Phoenix neighborhoods. It portrays themes of family, education and social justice, depicting the artists’ heroes, such as Phoenix civil rights leader Salvador Reza.

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When Andy Brown, alias Soldier Leisure, noticed a long white cord on this wall at Third and Garfield streets where he was to paint a mural last March, he viewed it not as an impediment but as an inspiration. He painted “Music Man,” incorporating the cord as part of the colorful character’s headphones. The Phoenix artist, who also designs graphic-art clothing, painted a second “Music Man” mural at Auto Glass Direct on Southern and Mill avenues in Tempe.


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Though Lalo Cota has lived in Phoenix since he was a child, his signature skeletal style more closely reflects his native Sonora, Mexico, and in particular his favorite holiday: Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Cota’s paintings regularly make the rounds at local galleries, and Downtown Phoenix is tattooed by many of his macabre murals, including the smiling skeletons (left) at Tacos de Juarez (1017 N. Seventh St.) and Maria de Guadelupe (right) behind MADE boutique (922 N. Fifth St.).

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Proclaiming the messages “Bienvenidos a Arizona” and “Build Your Own American Dream,” this mural is the first for Maricopa painter Gennaro Garcia and the inaugural work commissioned for Calle 16 – Barrio Café owner Silvana Salcido Esparza’s multi-mural project to beautify 16th Street. About 150 volunteers from ages 5 to 80 helped spraypaint this collage of Mexican and Arizonan images at 16th Street and Edgemont Avenue, fulfilling Calle 16’s other goal: to unite and inspire the Valley’s Latino community through art.

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This musical mural at Revolver Records (918 N. Second St., Phoenix) may depict smooth, slow-singing chanteuse Billie Holiday, but it was completed in double-time. Roy Sproule, an avionics technician with the U.S. Air Force then stationed at Luke Air Force Base, worked through the night to finish the mural before he was deployed to Korea last summer. The artist also painted a mural outside the Valley Youth Theatre office (First and Fillmore streets), completing both works for free while he builds his portfolio.

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A working artist for 35 years, Greg Bucher is something of a celebrity specialist, having painted murals of Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne at SunUp Brewing Co. (322 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix), sports greats at TGI Friday’s in Chase Field, and this lineup of illustrious pugilists, such as Jose Benavidez Jr. (see Spotlight, page 58) at The Central Boxing Club (1755 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix).