Regular followers of OTR know that, in addition to fine art and excellent coffee and tea, we are avid fans of street art (@streetartfromtheroad). This edition of OTR 7.0 presents a sampling of our favorite street murals from this trip. Some of the murals below we found purely by chance while others we sought out based on our research of public art in a particular area, town or neighborhood.
We should qualify that our focus is on street murals as opposed to graffiti or tagging. Marking public or private property is really a subversive activity and while we have our subversive moments, we do not support the defacing of public or private property. Okay, enough on that topic.
Street art is often very political and cultural in nature and at it’s best is powerful and moving. We also find that it is often highly creative, humorous and very often beautiful.
Please find below our favorites from OTR 7.0, we hope you enjoy the photographs. P.S. We have provided attribution wherever possible.
New Mexico: Taos
New Mexico: Plaza de Chimayo
New Mexico: Espanola
New Mexico: Santa Fe
Texas: Quitaque (kitty-k)
Texas: Amarillo: Hoodo Mural Festival
Historical footnote: the Greenwood District of Tulsa was the site of the Tulsa race massacre also known as the Tulsa race riot. In the early 1900’s this area of Tulsa was known as Black Wall Street due to the concentration of wealth in this largely black community.
On May 31, 1921 multiple mobs of armed white residents of Tulsa (deputized by city officials) attacked the residents of the area killing and injuring scores of people and destroying a 40 block area of the district. Thirty-six blacks were killed and over 800 were hospitalized.
Some accounts indicate that the massacre was triggered by the arrest of a black man for assaulting a white woman. Most historians agree that this event was more the result of a growing resentment in the white community of the financial success of ”Black Wall Street”.
Moab was a sleepy trading post and farming community for most of its history. Its settlement dates back to about 1829 when people traveling north on what is now known as the Old Spanish Trail would attempt to cross the Colorado River in Moab and the local inhabitants would sell their goods to the travelers.
A little over 100 years later uranium was discovered in Moab. Uranium was in great demand for use in nuclear weapons post World War 2, so the federal government stepped in and passed laws mandating that all uranium mined in the United States could only be sold to the federal government. The economy of Moab shifted to mining overnight and Moab became known as the uranium capital of the world.
Unfortunately, as must, all booms result in some sort of bust. By 1960 the federal government declared it had all the uranium it needed. Since no one else could purchase uranium the mines in Moab began to close; the last of the mines closed in 1980. The population which had reached 6,000 declined to 1,000.
Today, the Moab area draws tourists who come to mountain bike, hike, rock climb, drive off road trails and boat on the Colorado. Additionally, Moab hosts two unique national parks – Arches and Canyonlands
While the town is prospering, there still remains the issue of remediating the uranium sites. When a visitor enters town for the first time driving south on route 191, it is hard to miss the large mound of contaminated pilings near the road.This pile consists of the remaining contaminated tailings. Over 16 million tons of tailings were produced from the uranium mills in Utah. The tailings are being removed and taken by train to a permanent disposal location in Colorado. More than 10 million tons have been removed so far under the auspices of the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) program paid for by the citizens of the United States.
Final note: many of the miners that worked in the Uranium mills were Navajo. There was little regard for their safety. The Navajo workers suffered significantly from lung cancer and other diseases. While the U.S. Public Health Service was aware of the effects as early as 1951, it was not until 1990 that the health impact was acknowledged. To make matters worse, the Navajo were not eligible for financial compensation until 2017.
Moab is certainly a mountain biking mecca – the good news is that for those of us in need of less demanding terrain, the town has developed a number of bike paths and bike lanes. One of the bike paths runs east along the Colorado River providing magnificent views of the river and red rock cliffs.
Camping with a view…
Moab and the surrounding area offers scores of camping choices. Everything from in town RV resorts to remote primitive camping. We look forward to “boondocking” in Moab. We generally camp in a different location each night to enjoy different settings as well as the fantastic night sky and solitude.
One of the reasons we chose a high clearance 4wd equipped Sprinter was our desire to go places that we would never be able to see and experience without that capability. The Moab area provides a plethora of opportunities to put the Beast to the test. Above and below we have included a sample of several of our 4wd adventures.
Our favorite new Moab mural.
Our trip from Salt Lake City to Moab usually involves a lunch and coffee stop in Helper, Utah. Helper has been undergoing a revitalization over the last several years and has become home to a number of artists. On this stop we discovered some wonderful paintings by Thomas Elmo Williams. Williams was a coal miner for 14 years before a mining accident put an end to that line of work for him. Williams started his new career sketching fellow miners and still focuses much of his art on the labor of working folks. He has a gallery in Helper.
We love Utah and recommend that if you love outdoor recreational activities then a visit to Utah should be on your travel list, with a definite stop in Moab.