Tucked into the heart of downtown Flagstaff sits the historic Orpheum Theater, home to thousands of shows over the past century and a well known venue to locals and students alike. Also known to most locals was the decomposing outer walls of the theater, covered in peeling paint and blemishes from the extreme wear and tear brought on by Flagstaff’s weather. However, if one has taken a trip to the theater in the last two months, they would have noticed the new and beautiful mural that is in progress on the left side of the building. Sky Black and the Mural Mice have bestowed “The Sound of Flight” onto Flagstaff, and the mural is clearly a masterpiece.

The 1,400 square foot mural was started over two years ago when artist Sky Black began putting images together in his mind that would later be transferred to an oil painting.

“I would like to leave something big behind,” Black said, who was born in Flagstaff although raised in Michigan where most of his murals are located. “It represents my commitment to the trade.”

Black, a professional oil painter, was able to make his idea a reality with a far smaller canvas in three weeks. “The Sound of Flight” was born, an image composed of many others in which birds are bursting from a piano and taking flight over a sunset image of the Grand Canyon.

“What I grasped in the concept was a feeling to start with,” Black said. “It’s a musical moment of birds exploding out of the piano in climatic form. They are doing it in a way that’s so undeniable, everyone can relate to the inspiration in the piece.”

For those who have yet to see this mural, it is composed of a large piano with an array of birds flying out of the instrument in an uplifting fashion. The Grand Canyon has yet to be painted, however, 80 percent of the mural is completed and provides a more than decent idea of what the end product will look like.

Black is not the sole painter in this collaboration; the Mural Mice were invited to take part in this experience back in the spring. Black enlisted the Mural Mice not only help paint the mural in a timely fashion, but to also have different styles and interests help make the piece more unique.

The Mural Mice consists of two mural veterans, R.E. Wall and Maggie Dewar. Both artists originate from New York and share the same passion for community art projects.

“Our objective was to articulate the community’s point of view by making murals more relevant to the very town they’re in,” said founder of Mural Mice Universal in Prescott in 2005 R.E. Wall.

Mural Mice embodies every community they work in by creating participatory art; projects in which anyone in the community are invited and encouraged to add their artistic point of view and skill to the mural being created. In total, Mural Mice has helped to gather over 2,500 volunteers from Prescott alone.

“We feel super appreciated here,” said co-founder of Mural Mice Universal and director of the Mural Mice Theater Company Maggie Dewar. “It’s such a strong community in Flagstaff, and we never have to buy our own beer.”

The dynamic duo were invited by Black to collaborate on the mural, and the extensive period of fundraising began. Over 50 local businesses have signed on to sponsor the project, along with the help of a website, similar to Kickstarter and a large silent auction held last summer. The artists met their goal and have been supported by the town throughout the entire process, including weekly visits to the art site by mayor Jerry Nabours.

As painting of the left side of the wall is coming to an end, plans of the right side, set to begin next year, have already been set into motion. Black has mentioned a more interpretive piece of three statues and a muse in a red dress.

For information on the mural and how to contribute, visit www.soundofflight.net. More information on the Mural Mice can be found at www.muralmice.com, with Sky Black’s work at www.skyblackart.com. The team can be found working diligently on the mural any time of the week and are always open for inquiries and a friendly chat. 

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