Murals could be coming to Apache Park

Local Benson artist and muralist Doug Quarles stands before one of several murals he has painted on walls throughout Benson.

BENSON — At a recent Benson City Council meeting, a proposal for adding murals to the west side of Apache Park was discussed by council members.

The murals are intended as a tribute to Apache Nitrogen Products Inc. by nonprofit Benson Clean and Beautiful in commemoration of Apache’s 100-year anniversary.

“Apache Nitrogen got its start in 1920 and has been one of the area’s major employers for 100 years,” said Cindy Allen, president of Benson Clean and Beautiful. “We’ve raised the money for the murals, so there will be no out-of-pocket cost to the city. We’re waiting to hear from an engineer regarding structural information.”

Allen has reached out to Apache Nitrogen Public Relations Manager Lyndon Denton about the proposal and is waiting to hear from him.

“We’re expecting the artist Doug Quarles to work with Lyndon on the design,” Allen said.

During that meeting, City Manager Vicki Vivian said Apache Nitrogen donated the park to the city in 1949 with the stipulation that it must remain a park for the use and benefit of Benson residents.

“If city council approves the location of the murals, then we will move forward with the project,” Allen said. “We are proposing four murals that are four feet wide by eight feet high, and each mural will tell a different story about Apache Nitrogen,” Allen added. “Our goal is to highlight the company’s history and contribution to the area.”

City Council member Lupe Diaz raised questions about the placement and location of the murals, their integrity and potential impact on other uses at the park.

“I don’t feel we have enough information to vote on this,” Diaz said.

Council left the proposal as a discussion item only, requesting that Allen bring it back at a later meeting with more information.

“Bringing this to council was the first step in the process, with a goal of completing the project by the end of the year,” Allen said. “We want this done in 2020 because of Apache Nitrogen’s 100-year anniversary,” she said.

For the past seven years, Benson’s blank walls have become an artist’s canvas.

More than 40 murals that highlight the area’s history, culture and landscape are splashed on buildings throughout the city by Quarles, the artist commissioned by Benson Clean and Beautiful.

Quarles started the project on walls at the Benson Visitor Center parking lot with train-themed images that feature rail lines that have rumbled through town. Section gangs, miners and the prospectors who left their mark on the area’s history are some of the characters Quarles created for the Benson beautification project, which started in 2013.

Other paintings scattered through Benson feature wild horses, the Butterfield Overland Stage, Kartchner Caverns, desert wildlife, cattle drives and a fast-moving Pony Express rider, to name a few.