Arivaca Pollinator Pathway Project Mural

The Arivaca Pollinator Pathway Project Mural is designed to be a permanent fixture at the Arivaca Dancehall, and is a collaboration between Tohono O’odham artist Paul Pablo and a steering committee of Arivaca community members, including 5 youth from the Arivaca Library Teen Advisory Board (TAB). The three sides of the building inspired Paul and the steering committee to envision a scene that is depicted at three different times of day: the bright sun of afternoon, the glow of sunset/twilight, and a moonlit night. Each time of day and might will feature endangered and threatened species that are native to the Arivaca area. Below are drafts of each wall design:

Draft Designs

Afternoon: Monarch Butterfly drinking nectar from a native perennial sunflower species, surrounded by several Tohono O’odham basket-weaving symbols for the Mexican Wolf;

Draft of a mural of a butterfly on a building.

Sunset/twilight: Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats hovering around a giant Saguaro-blossom-shaped sunset;

Mockup of part of the Arivaca Pollinator Pathway Project Mural

Moonlight: The Lesser Long-nosed Bat pollinating a Saguaro blossom, with a Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl peering out from a nesting cavity in the Saguaro’s trunk.

Draft of a part of the mural with a hasan flower

The featured species also have special meaning for the Tohono O’odham people, featuring prominently in their legends and winter storytelling traditions. Tohono O’odham consider Saguaro cacti to be tribal members, and their fruit is an important traditional source of food and drink. Lesser Long-nosed Bats (and other nectar-eating bats) are the Saguaros’ main pollinators, and the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl nests primarily in abandoned woodpecker cavities within Saguaros. The hummingbird and Monarch butterfly are both considered to be spiritual messengers, and the wolf (similar to the coyote) is considered a trickster and a teacher. In addition, a portion of the traditional Tohono O’odham “man-in-the-maze” symbol is featured on two of the mural walls, so that the portions create a complete symbol when imagined to be joined together.

This symbol of life cycles, choice, and eternal motion, along with the circle of people holding hands within the Saguaro-blossom sunset, place human beings in the landscape, sharing our journeys with all the other species.

Several plant and animal additions and edits will be made to the draft designs above to create a final design during the next two weeks, and a Tohono O’odham word meaning “to protect” will be incorporated into one of the mural walls as a reminder of the importance for humans to work together to protect all endangered and threatened species, as well as to protect each other.

The mural will be painted between August 30th and September 2nd, 2023 by Paul Pablo during his stay in Arivaca, with the steering committee members serving as his assistants. A community celebration will be held on September 3rd at the Arivaca Dancehall, that will include an educational presentation by staff from the Tohono O’odham Museum & Cultural Center and a lively waila music performance by Gertie and the T.O. Boys!

Finding the Mural

The Mural Location: Arivaca is the oldest, continuously-inhabited town in Arizona, with approx. 600 residents. Many historic buildings remain along “main street” (5th St) and nearby side streets that date back to the 1800s, including the Arivaca Schoolhouse built in 1879.

For hundreds of years, the Arivaca area was a place where indigenous people from the Hohokam and O’odham tribes lived, hunted, and gathered food and supplies. It was part of Mexico until the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, and became a mining and ranching center for settlers from Spain and its colonies, and other European nations.

The town of Arivaca is surrounded by the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which includes a desert marsh, creek, Cottonwood and Mesquite forests, and grasslands. It is a home for a wide diversity of wildlife species, from mountain lions and coatimundi to hummingbirds and bats. Several endangered or threatened species, such as the Sonoran Pronghorn, Jaguar, Horned Lizard, Monarch Butterfly, Masked Bobwhite, and Sonoran Desert Tortoise are known to live or migrate through this area.

The Mural Site

The Arivaca Dancehall is a multi-purpose, community-driven space that hosts a variety of events such as music concerts, dance classes, banquets, movies, art-making, celebrations, and educational events. It is located in the heart of Arivaca’s “main street”, in a historic adobe building that was built as a dancehall in 1934 and has recently been completely renovated.

The ESA@50 mural will be painted on three sides of the restroom outbuilding that lies in the center of the dancehall property. Each of the three sides is viewable from one of the main outdoor spaces: an accessiblewalkway, courtyard, or fire pit/recreation area. A Pollinator Pathway Garden filled with small shrubs and perennials also surrounds the outbuilding, and will serve as a colorful, low foreground for the mural art.

One of the unique features of the mural is that it will only be able to be viewed in its entirety by “traveling” around the three sides of the building with a close view of the art, rather than viewing the mural as a whole from a distance. Because the building also has a relatively low profile, the mural will be nestled into the landscape rather than towering over it, and enable viewers to feel immersed by the art.

Arivaca Dancehall, 17271 W. Fifth St., Arivaca, AZ


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