New mural in Tempe to serve dual purpose

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)

A new public art mural commissioned by the City of Tempe is part deterrent, part neighborhood pride piece. The mural is being painted on the side of a city-owned building located on Hardy Drive just north of University Drive at Jaycee Park.

"This was a conversation with the graffiti abatement team and wanting to find ways to detract from people wanting to do graffiti, and this wall has been a blank canvas for that," said City of Tempe Arts Coordinator Maja Aurora.

The thought is that if you take away that blank canvas, you take away the appeal for taggers.

"They want a space where people can see it and so if there's something else there, it's not as desirable of a location," Aurora said.

Muralist and fine artist Lauren Lee was selected to paint the 153-foot mural.

"I usually paint really fast and so even just thinking in terms of weeks or even a month or more shows you the scale of it," Lee said. "It's a very big painting."

At a cost of $12,000 this is the first public mural commissioned by the City of Tempe on city property.

"It's a huge wall and it will make quite an impact in this area," Aurora said.

Lee's mural titled "Don't Wake the Dreamer" was chosen out of 45 proposals submitted for the project.

"There's a lot of layers and that's good because people are going to live this for many years and I want them to see it once and think, OK, have one idea about it, then see it again, have another idea about it and maybe have it grow in time, too," Lee said.

Her proposed painting was selected by the community, which the city says is hugely important.

Lee is nearing the halfway mark and says already she's noticing the impact of her work.

"It's almost performance art," she said. "People are walking by all the time, you know, maybe every day 50 to 60 honks, or thumbs-up or 'Hey, this is awesome' or 'This is beautiful.'"

While this is a first for the city, it's not Lee's first mural. She has painted a few other iconic pieces around the Valley in the last couple of years, including the "Three Birds" piece on a downtown Phoenix building that was recently demolished.

While she says she doesn't feel any pressure with this project, saying it's more excitement than anything, she does realize the magnitude of it all.

"It's a huge honor. I know that they're putting a lot of trust in me," she said.

The mural should be finished in the next few weeks. City officials said this will not be their last commissioned mural. Plans are in the works for another one at Daley Park later this year.

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