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Trading spray paint for paint brushes

Overpass mural by young Tucson artists to be unveiled Wednesday

Juan Rocha first came to art classes at the Boys & Girls Club at 29th Street and Columbus because he was trying to impress a girl.

“But now, I’m like completely into it,” Rocha said, “I guess I’m just one of those taggers that went good.”

His artwork, along with that of other young artists and community volunteers will be in the limelight Wednesday when the Tucson Arts Brigade unveils “Inside the Overpass,’ a mural at 29th Street and Columbus that took two years and incorporates the input of more than 70 young people.

Tucson Arts Brigade (TAB) is a nonprofit community arts program created in 1996. When invited by neighborhoods, schools and other groups, they provide art classes and create murals.

“We’re becoming more fragmented as a society and that’s resulted in increased crime and blight, what have you, ” said TAB director, Michael Schwartz. “We begin to reverse that process by bringing people together through creative activities."

Before the overpass mural could be started, hundreds of graffiti tags had to be scrubbed from the overpass and 80 pounds of garbage removed.

“In this one area that was saturated, we’ve seen a decrease (in tagging),” Schwartz said.

The mural is the result of a three-year collaboration with the 4R coalition, a group of area neighborhoods that wanted to see less graffiti. The Puffin Foundation, Pantano Christian Church, Pro-Neighborhoods, and The Tucson Pima Arts Council contributed funds to the project.

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After addressing the community, TAB worked directly with the young artists through weekly classes. They brainstormed, planned and painted the project from start to finish.

“There’s so much possibility, so much potential when you look at the skill out there,” Schwartz said.

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Mariana Dale/TucsonSentinel.com

Juan Rocha works on a painting of his likeness on the overpass mural.

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If you go

  • What: Overpass mural unveiling, featuring food, drinks, youth artist portfolios and live music
  • When: Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m.
  • Where: 29th Street and Columbus Boulevard 
  • Cost: Free