Page City Council unanimously approved a motion last week to install artwork along the walkway between the City Hall parking lot and Memorial Plaza.
The approved artwork, called the Boiler Tube Slot Canyon, was part of an art project initiated by Shane Jones of Salt River Project in 2019 to memorialize the soon-to-close Navajo Generating Station.
Boiler Tube Slot Canyon, created by NGS employee Jarvison Littlesunday, consists of a series of 20-to-25-foot-long boiler tubes salvaged from one of the NGS stacks after it went offline.
The tubes have been “bent in different curves and angles at the top,” according to City Council documents. “When they stand vertical, they create the illusion of one walking through a slot canyon.”
However, the project was not 100% completed before NGS closed, and the tubes are now sitting in storage on Aqua Avenue, according to Lynn Cormier, director of community and recreation services for the city.
“Originally, (Jarvison Littlesunday) was supposed to powder-coat them and paint them and what have you. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to completely finish the project,” Cormier said at the Sept. 22 City Council meeting. “We currently have them over on Aqua. They’re just lying there. … It is piece of NGS that we would like to memorialize.”
She said they have nine tubes, and idea is to install them along the curving walkway, “four on the left side and five of them on the right, and create this slot canyon effect when you’re walking through it.”
She added that in addition to installing the tubes, city staff will need to paint them and seal them. She suggested “painting them like oranges and purples, like when the sun is hitting it, all the array of colors.”
Mayor Bill Diak immediately supported the idea and the location.
“At night it’s one of the most colorful spots in town, so why not include that to the daytime also?” he said.
Councilor Theresa Lee expressed concern that the art installation might take away from the intention behind Memorial Plaza, such as paying respects to local service members who have died.
However, Diak, who was among the original designers of Memorial Plaza, said the purpose of the park was to recognize and memorialize people from the community and surrounding area, living or dead.
“It’s not just to memorialize someone that’s passed,” he said, adding that he thought the artwork would add to the attraction of the spot.
“We used to have people sit out there and do things. That’s what it’s for,” he said. “It’s just a fun spot so people can have something to do when they come out of their hotel rooms as they’re walking to have dinner.”
Councilor Brian Carey put forth a motion to approve placement of the Boiler Tube Slot Canyon, which was unanimously approved. The installation will be conducted over the winter, overseen by Parks and Recreation Manager Dwayne Richard.
Also at the Sept. 22 City Council meeting, Sheri Ptacek sought the council’s approval to start a city mural program, beginning with a mural by artist Daniel Josley on the north exterior wall of City Hall. Josley quoted a price of $1,700 to create a kachina-like image with outstretched wings where visitors can stand for photo opportunities, according to City Council documentation.
Ptacek also proposed future murals at the airport, Community Townhouse and John C. Page Park, as well as the establishment of an Arizona Passport Mural Project in collaboration with other municipalities across the state.
“Murals bring in economy for local businesses. It also brings in foot traffic, it tells a story about Page, how Page started,” Ptacek said at the meeting.
“You can have different kinds of murals that represents Page. We had dinosaurs here. Kids would love to take their pictures with the dinosaurs. Our kachina dolls, Navajo culture – people want to see the color, they want to know about our culture here.”
Cormier said she was “wholeheartedly” in support of establishing a mural project in Page.
“I just thought it would be a great idea. (Ptacek) would like to start with this one mural, maybe just to give our downtown another walkway,” she said, addressing the council. “We were just wondering if you guys had wanted to give us the support to at least start this program. “
Diak said he also like the idea.
“We’ve talked about this idea in the past, and I think it’s time,” he said.
“I see it at other areas I go to. I keep bringing up Grand Junction, Colorado. I still say we need to go there and take a look around sometime and see what they’ve done to a dying downtown area and how they’ve rejuvenated the downtown area, and it’s with things like this that are drawing traffic to do that, and places to stop at, too, which we need to work on.”
Councilor David Auge mentioned Gray Mountain as an example of how murals can enhance drab buildings. He was referring to the Whiting Brothers motel on Highway 89 between Page and Flagstaff, where, late last year, artists involved with the Painted Desert Project covered the decaying structures with colorful murals.
“There’s some really nice work down there if you’ve ever driven by the old motel and those water tanks and stuff. They really improved it,” he said.
Carey was also supportive of the idea and said murals can benefit Page in particular. However, he was reluctant to approve a mural program before more details were worked out.
“I don’t have an upper budget figure here, we don’t have all the locations, we don’t have a theme. … I’d be more comfortable approving an overall program,” he said. “I know I don’t want to say anything bad about murals, I think it’s great. I think we need some caveats or some boundaries around what it might be because somebody might make a poor decision and it may delay the program for another five years.”
City Attorney Joshua Smith said one question would be how involved the council wants to be in the mural program.
“We don’t really have a program that we’re presenting to you for you to approve,” he said. “How far do you want staff to bring a location and a concept from an artist that staff selects and bring that to you and have you say ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ or do you want to be a little more involved somehow in the process?”
In the end, no motion was tabled about the mural project. Instead, City Manager Darren Coldwell said they would start the project by refining it down to one or two murals, pick specific spots, and bring the proposal back to the council.