While on a trip to Southern Arizona, I wanted to make a visit to the old Copper mining town of Bisbee. Once a busy with mining, the mine is closed and the town has made a lot of changes in recent times. It has become somewhat an artist colony which the city seems to promote but controversy has developed between the free wheeling artist and the city fathers. I wanted to visit Bisbee as I had not been there for over 30 years. Seeing an article in the Sierra Vista newspaper about a battle over an art wall painted in honor of a local artist that has passed away recently, Rose Johnson, I knew I had to find and photograph the wall.
I met Joe Klinger, a local artist and certainly supporter of the rights of the individual and freedom of choice in the art community. Some of his art pieces that adorn the outside of his studio on Brewery Avenue have the tongues wagging by some of the town locals and city officials. Joe, a former resident of Paterson, NJ moved to the area about 5 years ago and opened his Renegade Studios. He has been involved in the local artist community, helping start Bark Park, a homegrown dog park along with walls of some of the old buildings being painted with murals and other art work.
This was on private land which limited what the city could do. It wasn’t until some of the artist painted a mural in honor of Rose Johnson, a well-known Phoenix painter and muralist that moved to Bisbee in 1998 and passed away recently. It was an old, ugly retaining wall that was painted by Joe and several other artists. The wall, owned by the city but painted without permits has caused the controversy. The city council to study and vote on keeping the wall or painting over it.
While I don’t know how it is going to turn out, it was interesting to see and hear the stories of the Art Community in Bisbee.