Photos by Mary Alice Murphy

 

[Editor's Note: Much of this article was taken from the news release before the dedication, plus from notes taken at the event.]

Plants, Pollinators and Climate Change MRAC Youth Mural was dedicated October 26, 2019 on the Texas Street side of the Silver City Trading Company Antique Mall in downtown Silver City.

The mural project, headed by Diana Ingalls-Leyba, was conceived to highlight the importance of native plants and their pollinators and bring in the concept of the threat of climate change. Alison Phillips’ Aldo Leopold High School art students created the design and contributed to the painting of the 20-foot-by-40-foot mural. The Youth Conservation Corps and community volunteers also assisted with the mural painting.

The original inspiration for the design came from Susan Clair, founder of the Grant County Beekeepers and member of Audubon. She had seen images of birds threatened by climate change on murals in New York City. She suggested we do a similar thing locally, since Silver City has a rich history of public art, including the recent mural at WNMU on endangered species. By involving many other local non-profits, the inspiration quickly transformed into a mural about plants, pollinators and climate change. The abundance of local resources to call upon and the potential impacts to local species were a perfect fit for the project. Input for the design came from members of Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society, Gila Native Plant Society, Grant County Beekeepers, and Grant County Archaeology Society. A significant contributor to the design was local photographer Elroy Limmer. Many of his photographs of local plants and pollinators were adapted for use in the mural by the students. Limmer is a past president of the Native Plant Society and former board member of the local Audubon chapter.

The final design depicts a transition from daylight to darkness with the appropriate plants and their pollinators depicted. The animal species included are not just birds, butterflies and bees but also bats and beetles who play an important, but often overlooked, role in the pollination of plants.

The mural also incorporates images from Mimbreño art to provide a historical perspective and segue into climate change. In addition to the historical perspective and beautiful iconography, the ancient art works provide important symbols of nature that are recapitulated in the artwork.

Perhaps the most stunning visual element of the mural is the border. Based on the images available through #showyourstripes, the border stripes highlight how temperatures have changed across the globe over the past century or more. The color of each stripe represents the temperature of a single year, ordered from the earliest available data to now. Blue representing cooler to red showing hotter global temperatures.

Carol Ann Fugagli said some say that climate change is the worst thing. "I say it's an opportunity to do meaningful, lasting things."

Ingalls-Leyba said Terry Timme of the Audubon Society came with the idea of pollinators and it grew into a combination with climate change. She also acknowledged artists Teja Clark and Iris Johnson, "who are always there when I need them." She said Erika Burleigh helped, as did Sally Tilton and Kathy Whiteman. Bart Brown helped with the scaffolding and Syzyy Tile helped when they needed more scaffolding. Grado Stucco repaired the wall for the painting.

Phillips said she was "super proud of her students, who came up with the design.

Katrina Estrada, ALCS student body president, said she was once of the first sixth-graders to attend ALCS, and "now Im about to graduate. I was also a crew leader of one of the mural's crews. We were able to come together to create such a beautiful mural.

Marilyn Markel of the Grant County Archaeology Society said she talked to the students about Mimbreño pottery and the climate change the artists faced. "We think they overused their resources and left when the river dried up.

Kim Sexton of the GC Beekeepers said the majority of the members are not beekeepers themselves, but are interested in plants that don't require pesticides.

Timme of Audubon said 389 spices of 900 bird species in the county are facing extinction. He noted it was important to have native plants for the pollinators.

Following the dedication, the Audubon and Native Plant Societies gave away free native plants.

The funders for this mural include The SWNM Audubon Society Coleman and Susan Burke Center for Native Plants, Gila Native Plant Society, GC & NM Beekeepers Association, Town & Country Garden Club, Linda Gerritson, and the Grant County Archaeology Society. Funders for the program are The Lineberry Foundation and Comcast Cares. A major partner is the Youth Conservation Corps.