Pascua Yaqui teens to paint mural in Mission Garden

Six teenagers from the Boys and Girls Club’s Pascua Yaqui Clubhouse will be participating in the creation of a mural in Mission Garden. 

The six teens will be working alongside two professional muralists, Maxie Adler and Paul Pablo, who is from the Tohono O’odham Nation, said Lesley Kontowicz, executive director of the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area, which is overseeing the project.

“It’s really more like an apprenticeship for the youths and they’re being paid a stipend,” Kontowicz said.

The teens are required to contribute to 15 hours minimum of work in order to get paid $575 each. The process began with the teenagers and the two muralists having a guided tour of Mission Garden. Then the students had a session with the muralists where they could discuss ideas and concepts for the piece.

“The students were so shy and it was the beginning of the school year, they didn’t know each other,” Kontowicz said. “But then we had our dinner and it was great to see them ask questions and become more comfortable. Last week, the muralists submitted the proposal and its pending approval.”

Kontowicz said their first scheduled painting day is December 8, which will be followed by six more days of work on the mural. 

The artists are drawing inspiration from the natural history of the land such as the three sisters – corn, bean and squash – being planted together and other native farming techniques.

“The theme from what I’ve gathered, it’s about the Indigenous roots and the work done here in Mission Garden,” Kontowicz said. “But also how the roots have spread. Mission Garden is now multicultural as Tucson is multicultural.”

Kontowicz said they hope to finish the mural by the end of the year. The mural will be painted on a 72-foot-long, 6-foot-high wall made out of blocks of recycled plastic. Manufactured by ByFusion, each block weighs 22 pounds. They are molded with sides that fit each other like toy building blocks.

The ByFusion website says there is no need for adhesives which makes installation quicker and they’re more durable than concrete blocks as they “won’t crack or crumble.”

The wall of blocks will have clear caps — “truth windows” — which will allow visitors to see the material of the blocks and their colorful, unique look.

There will be two sides to the mural: one will be visible from the street outside the garden and the other side will be accessible via a walking path.

The project is the third installment of a 2021 agreement between the
Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area and the National Park Service .
The first one is located at 112 N. Grand Ave. in Nogales, and the
second is in Old Pascua, at 625 W. Rillito St.