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Bringing a splash of color to West End: City opens call for artists

SIERRA VISTA — For many years, the city has had a vision of bringing art to public spaces around Sierra Vista and with a call to artists posted last week, that dream is taking the first steps to becoming a realty.

The city is currently looking for a professional artist or team of artists to create a mural for the water tower located at the southwest corner of Denman Avenue and Canyon Drive.

This unconventional canvas is positioned in the West End of town and when the city began scouting locations for a public art project, this one stood out.

Community Development Director Matt McLachlan said that the city is contributing $10,000 for this project from Community Development Block Grant money allocated annually by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Along with the CDBG funds, Liberty Utilities is also contributing financially and will have say in the final concept.

“We reached out to Adolfo Garcia perations manager) at Liberty Water and they were more than a willing partner,” McLachlan said. “Not only did they agree to let us use the water tower for the mural project, they contributed $5,000 towards the cost.”

The goal of the project is to continue revitalization efforts on the West End and to bring more public art projects to the city.

“The West End Commission has a strong interest in seeing more mural projects,” McLachlan said. “We are hoping this encourages civic pride and improves the aesthetics of the neighborhood.”

The city’s Arts and Humanities Commission is leading the project and will be responsible for looking over submitted proposals and selecting an artist.

“After we get all the proposals we’re supposed to review, we’ll then come to a consensus on which one we feel is best — one that suits Sierra Vista, not only the culture we have here but something that would also be suitable for the West End,” explained commission member Anastasia Dean.

“We’ll also be making a recommendation for whatever the artist wants to do within the parameters of the project, and it’s a big project and not a huge budget.”

Dean said that the commission hopes to see a mural that represents what makes the city unique.

“We certainly want it to be reflective of the community here, the people here, our history — we have a long history — and of course we want it to look beautiful,” she said. “We definitely have our own unique culture in the desert and I think it should reflect that.”

The city’s West End Commission will also be involved, helping to determine the final concept.

Commission Chair Rosie Mackey said they have always wanted a project like this to happen but didn’t have enough momentum in the past. She’s excited to see this move forward and the doors it could open.

“It’s going to be a landmark ... people are going to use it like ‘see where the water tower is, meet me there,’” she said. “I think people need to relate to it — like, ‘this is my community and this just shows it as it is.’”

As the project moves on, she hopes to work with both commissions to find additional funds for the project.

“Funding is important,” she said. “I think the West End Commission wants to get together with the Arts and Humanities Commission and talk about ‘let’s go after some grants.’”

“There’s some money out there that can fund these to a great extent.”

Councilwoman Carolyn Umphrey is the council liaison to both commissions and said the groups share a common desire to bring more public art to the community.

She believes projects like this one will allow residents additional opportunities to identify with their community.

“It’s going to start conversations, engage our public, our citizens, get people talking to each other,” she said. “There’s studies coming out now to support the positive impact this (public art) has on communities.”

“Now municipalities that had reserved funds are like ‘we have to make this a priority.’”

She hopes this is just the first of many future art projects.

“If there’s a mural, people are going to start taking selfies and photos with it,” she said. “It’s going to make this public space more special.”

The city is looking for a professional artist or team with at least three years of experience with public art.

Applicants have until June 20 to submit their proposals and interviews will take place June 24 to 28.

The city will consult with the community before the project is completed.

McLachlan said he hopes the project is completed by sometime in mid-October.

Discovering greenhouses: Volunteers build new plant enclosure at UA Sierra Vista

SIERRA VISTA — A group of volunteers gathered at the Discovery Gardens on the UA campus in Sierra Vista Wednesday morning to start building an 8-by-12 foot greenhouse.

Funded through a grant from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, the structure will be used to grow vegetables and bedding flowers, which will be incorporated into the gardens for educational purposes.

“Most of the people working on this project are members of our newly graduated 2019 Master Gardener class,” said Jan Groth, who serves as a UA Cooperative Extension master gardener instructor and program coordinator.

The 16-week course started in January and met Wednesday afternoons through May. Participants receive science-based information on such topics as soil and plant nutrition, pest management, water conservation, native and desert adaptive plants and turf care.

On Wednesday, Cal Kelley, master gardener president, was one of the volunteers who helped with the project by assembling work tables to be used inside the greenhouse to start seedlings and potted plants. Other volunteers worked on different sections of the structure’s frame, doors and windows.

“This greenhouse gives us greater capabilities to do more things for the gardens and the public,” Kelley said. “It’s going to make a great addition to our discovery gardens, especially for educational purposes.”

Fourteen-year-old Teague Hendrick was assembling the structure’s double doors with his parents, Ric and Wendy, and younger brother, Brody.

“Wendy is one of 26 master gardener graduates from our 2019 class who helped with the greenhouse,” Groth said. “Building this greenhouse as been a huge labor of love for most of our new graduates, along with a few other established master gardeners who volunteered to help with the project. We’ve worked more than 30 hours on building the structure.”

The greenhouse was constructed in sections, starting with leveling the site and building a foundation that was anchored in concrete on the first day.

“In the following two days, we started building the various sections so we could erect the structure as a whole,” Groth said.

Visitors new to the gardens are often surprised when they walk in and see the variety and collection of plants that are available, Groth said.

Some of the theme gardens include: evergreen, hot color, moonlight, cactus and succulent, hummingbird and butterfly and the pond shade garden. Pollinator themes run throughout the different garden settings.

“We have a 20,000 gallon rainwater tank and a beautiful pavilion that houses workshops and events,” Groth said. “We’ve also hosted more than 11,000 students for three-hour educational field trips that are offered to schools throughout Cochise County.”

Native and desert-adapted plants give visitors landscaping ideas, and drip irrigation systems are seen throughout the gardens, demonstrating the most efficient way to water plants.

Open for public visits, the UA Sierra Vista discovery gardens provide a motivational, educational setting while showcasing a beautiful, peaceful botanical environment.

“We’re thrilled to have this new addition because it gives us a whole new dimension for our discovery gardens and it allows us to start growing some of our own plants,” Groth said. “We’ll start using it on a full-time basis once the weather cools in the fall.”