Prescott’s Mural Mice are here to stay

By Maria Johnson
Staff Writer

They transform drab city walls into intricate, colorful murals and couple visual art with live performances for both children and adults of the community.  A mural they painted in 2010 sparked a controversy, which drew the world’s attention to Prescott.

They are the Mural Mice, and they are here to stay, with plenty of paint and endless ideas.

The Mural Mice are hopeful about their future, despite a few obstacles. Artist and project founder R.E. Wall explained that the Arizona Registrar of Contractors has ordered them to cease painting murals in the city of Prescott until they acquire a contractor’s license.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts said that, of all the major Arizona cities that have a percentage of sales tax going to public art, not one requires artists to have a license.

Funds from the City of Prescott go primarily to non-profit art organizations for temporary shows and exhibits that are not always homegrown. Wall strongly advocates funding local, permanent public art — it is “educational, good for the quality of life and gives direct reciprocation back to the people.”

The Mural Mice caught major attention in the summer of 2010 for their Miller Valley Elementary School “Go On Green” mural when members of the city council ordered the painters to lighten the skin tone of the main figure. Community members and the Mural Mice resisted the demand, and successfully completed the mural as originally designed.

Wall reflected on the incident nearly one year later, “We can all use a little more understanding about the world we live in. I think we showed the city council that we have more support than they thought we did. In fact, our support didn’t just come from the community, but the nation and the world.”

The town of Prescott continues to prove a challenging place for the Mural Mice. However, Wall stated that whatever the outcome from the more recent setbacks, they will continue to paint. For the time being, their dedication to Prescott’s history, community and collaboration continue to outweigh financial barriers.

Originally from Rochester NY, Wall moved in 1994 from Phoenix to Prescott in search of a smaller, slower-growing town. Three years later, he noticed signs of corporate growth and was inspired to preserve Prescott’s history through the painting of murals. Wall explained, “[It would be understood] that there was a human soul that existed here, and in 15, 20, 100 years people would know this town from the people that lived here, not the corporations that moved in.”

Wall became the project director for the Prescott Downtown Mural Project, a five-year project that produced six murals around town and collaborated with about 2,500 citizens. They became known as the “Mural Mice” in 2005.

All of the Mural Mice’s work depicts the heritage and traditions of Prescott, from influential citizens of the past, to art history and natural history. The major, constant theme is community. Every proposed mural goes through up to six months of community feedback and anyone is able to get involved in the production of the mural.

The involvement of more conservative members of the community would be beneficial to future projects, said Wall. “Our door is open to communication and cooperation with our community. We are an apolitical organization and try to keep a level playing field through the voices of our art. We try to do murals that are fair and cover all points of view in a positive way.”

The next big project on the horizon for the Mural Mice begins in the fall with the Universalist Church. Another idea in the works is a proposed women’s suffrage mural to represent the nearing anniversary of the state and women’s right to vote. Others have been projected throughout the months, but final decisions have yet to be made.

Wall said, “All we want is to provide a voice for the voiceless and make a great town into a better town.”

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This article appeared in the May 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.

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