A blank canvas of old crumbling brick that is the east wall of The Orpheum Theater has been restored. The building’s wall was mended back to a state of youth through the vibrantly vivid and thought-provoking mural painting “Sound of Flight.”
The mural was painted by Flagstaff’s very own Sky Black and the Mural Mice artists R.E. Wall and Margaret Dewar out of Prescott.
“Sound of Flight” engulfs the wall, becoming what is believed to be the biggest mural painting in the state of Arizona, measuring as large as 4,500 square feet. What breaks barriers over others is right in the heart of downtown Flagstaff.
This mural exemplifies collaboration of unique talents and visions — nearly reaching the unobtainable, which is perfection.
After two long years of hard work and dedication, “Sound of Flight” spreads the wings of its images from corner to corner, finally reaching the road of completion.
“Sound of Flight” was made possible with the generous support of 90 local business sponsors within the community and over 500 individual donations.
Grants from the Bed, Board & Booze tax were one of many donations, awarded by the Flagstaff Arts Council and the Beautification and Public Art Commission.
Born and raised in Flagstaff, Black is a prominent local artist in the community. Envisioning the idea for the mural in 2013, Black was eager to get the project going.
“It was time to make a big mark in the community and I had the energy and drive to do it,” Black said.
Implementing the project was no walk in the park, there were obstacles along the way to set the project in motion. However, Black had the motivation for it. In the mist of mornings, Black and the Mural Mice would show up on the scene of the project and started achieving weekly goals together through hard work, dedication and communication.
“We try to keep our palette consistent with one another,” Black said. “We want to make it look like one person painted it.”
Throughout the progression of the mural came the opportunity to talk with people from the community.
“The important part about painting the mural was getting to talk with the public,” Black said. “It was all part of working on the mural.”
Art was not always Black’s main interest and passion in life. Black passed up a full-ride academic scholarship to NAU to put his aspiration and desire as an artist into full swing.
Black’s aspirations have not failed him as he has undergone painting the biggest mural in the state of Arizona. Black has surely made a distinct mark in the world of art.
The Mural Mice came across Black at one of his art showings on the south side of town. Seeing his blatant talent and die-hard passion in his artwork, they knew he was a prominent artist to watch for.
“I knew right then and there he was a talented guy,” Wall said.
Joined together through the common passion for art and creativity, the Mural Mice were brought on to the project. Mural paintings are no foreign forte to the Mural Mice, having painted a fair share of murals in the grand state of Arizona — from the city of Mesa to the valley of Prescott.
The Mural Mice were not always tightly niched, but now they refer to themselves as “mice for life.” Coincidentally, both artists are from upstate New York, having not crossed paths up until a couple years ago in Prescott where they painted a mural together. The two then decided to settle in Flagstaff.
Black and the Mural Mice draw inspiration from all walks of life, letting it elevate their minds and leading them to create the surrealistic painting that is “Sound of Flight.”
Dewar has a flair for tone and color, with outstanding ability as a wildlife painter. Wall has a nag for perspective and scale, while Black manipulates representational images into a surrealistic and imaginative way, bending the perceptions of reality. Combining these three talents and expertise provided more than a finished project — it provided a connection.
“Combining passion through collaboration is a better way of making art,” Wall said.
The artists believe that collaboration and working together often create a chain effect on the human race.
“It empowers people which then inspires people, bringing out the beauty in each other,” Dewar said.
The mural speaks meaning, as birds flutter from within the grand piano exemplifying the climactic crescendo of a song. The birds reach the middle of the mural, bridging two worlds. They continue their migration, passing an elegant woman in red and Michelangelo’s “Statue of David” on the right.
Gliding by the iconic Auguste Rodin “Thinker” statue, birds soar through the deepest pits and highest heights of the Grand Canyon.
The grand unveiling of “Sound of Flight” is being held on Nov. 7 serving as a day to give thanks to the community for all they have provided through the strenuous two-year project.
“It’s not about us,” Wall said. “It is about giving back the mural and the community and a big thank you.”
Immense acts of talent are to be expected with performances by Flagstaff’s own Sambatuque, Flagstaff Aerial Arts and local band Tow’rs. Traveling from Prescott valley will be musician Jonathan Best.
“We are going to do the best we can to entertain,” Black said. “It’s going to be an emotional day full of surprises.”