Coming soon to a theater near you

By Shawn Byrne

Sun Editor

Cowboys, wagons, stagecoaches and trains each identify Wickenburg, and visitors accessing downtown from the east will be welcomed by such in the not-so-distant future.

Town Council approved at its Dec. 2 meeting a 45-foot-wide by 18-foot-high mural that will be painted on the Valentine Street side of the Saguaro Theatre, 178 E. Wickenburg Way. A park will also be included in place of the gravel parking lot that is currently located there.

“I think it is going to be a great feature for downtown Wickenburg to invite residents and visitors,” said Mayor Rui Pereira. “It’s always great when private business works with government to make the town look better.”

Property owners Tom Watt, Betty Watt, Bob Dunn, and Theresa Dunn expect to commit about $80,000 to the project, which includes the mural that will be a rendition of a Steve Atkinson painting. Atkinson is based out of Prescott.

“If it really spruces up and helps, and maybe gets people and other businesses inspired to do something with their property with more landscaping, painting and redoing their fronts to help our town, that’s what all this is about,” Tom Watt said. “It’s what we would like to see happen.”

This isn’t the first time the Watts and Dunns have come to the aid of that part of downtown. When the theater came on the market, Tom Watt said he had heard there were some people looking to change the theater into another venue. The Watts and Dunns joined forces to keep the Saguaro a theater.

“I got a hold of Bob and I told him that he ought to buy that thing,” Watt said. “He said, ‘OK, I’ll do that if you go with me.’ That wasn’t what I had in mind, but we bought the theater.”

A mural and small park at the location wasn’t the first plan that came to mind to the group. When the developer wanted to build the hotel nearly across the street, the Watts and Dunns were thinking about putting a small section of shops where the parking lot is now.

“We are really lacking in some areas with shops,” Watt said. “When that fell through, there was no need for us to do that.”

Atkinson’s painting depicts Wickenburg’s engine No. 761 with a cowboy on horseback in front of a covered wagon on one side of the tracks, and another cowboy on horseback alongside a stagecoach on the other, with the message “Howdy pard’ner! Welcome to Wickenburg” included. Atkinson has been gracious enough to allow the copying of his work at no cost.

Kim Polomka of Colorado Springs  is being commissioned to paint the mural on the side of the Saguaro Theater. Watt has seen the murals painted in downtown Colorado Springs, found out it was Polomka who did that work, and tracked him down to do the work here.

The Watts and Dunns agreed to give some of the land from the lot to the Town, and the sidewalk along Valentine Street will be moved toward the building. There will be vertical parking on the street in place of what is on the gravel lot now, and the small park will have a strip of grass, trees on its north side, and a patio, trees and flowers on the south side.

“When you come in from the roundabout and hit that first intersection there, you’re going to say, ‘Wow!’” Watt said.

Wickenburg Community Development Director Steve Boyle brought the mural and park project to Council’s attention.

“The proposed mural is visually appealing and will bring this popular corner a greater sense of identity, welcoming and color,” Boyle said. “The Town is fortunate enough to have this great piece of new art from the Watt and Dunn families.”

Tom Watt said he expects the mural to be completed near the end of January, depending upon the weather. The park could take another 45-60 days after the mural is finished.

“I’m 82 years old and said ‘Why don’t you spend your time now and make the town better?’” Watt said. “That’s why I’m spending all my energy doing this. I enjoy doing it, and if I can get something done, then it kind of says I did something good to help a community.”

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