The beige walls of Sawmill Theatres may soon get a historic makeover.
Minette Richardson, founder of Down the Street Art Gallery, is spearheading a mural project on the Main Street-facing walls of the Sawmill Crossing building.
The mural, tentatively scheduled to begin when the weather cools in September, would include pictures relevant to the history of Payson and Main Street, Richardson said.
"This is an opportunity to establish a new identity for Main Street, if not all of Payson," said Richardson at a recent meeting of the Payson Art League. "It would give us some pride in our town."
Richardson said she received approval for the project from Gordon Whiting, vice president of Kaibab Industries, Inc., which owns Sawmill Crossing.
Although the exact content of the mural is undecided, the general idea is to project old photographs onto the building and replicate them with paint, Richardson said. Zane Grey, the Oxbow Saloon, the old Sawmill building, historic book covers and postcards are possible subjects.
The appearance would not be a continuous painting, but rather separate square blocks, each containing a single, enlarged photograph, according to Richardson's initial sketches.
"I envision staying in sepia tones and putting the ‘photographs' up by painting rusty nails," Richardson said. "We'll make drawings of the projected photographs and simplify them. It will almost become a paint-by-number."
Community Development Director Jerry Owen said he thinks the project could be a good addition to the community.
"I applaud Minette for taking initiative," Owen said. "That's the way you build communities -- when people grab the bull by the horns."
Several years ago, the Payson Main Street Program discussed a similar mural proposal, but the idea "got lost somewhere in committee life," Richardson said. "Before, we were encumbered because people wanted grants to hire professionals."
This mural would instead be painted by volunteer artists, Richardson said.
"The project is not affiliated with any galleries or organization, but with the entire community of artists," Richardson said. "Their input, talent and knowledge will be accepted."
The goal is to include every person who has an interest in the project, Richardson said.
"Even someone who brings the artists iced tea will be able to sign their name in an area and be recognized," Richardson said.
The biggest expense is paint and brushes, Richardson said. She added that Arizona Public Service (APS) has agreed to help fund the project.
Dick Wolfe, president of the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation, said he is optimistic that the foundation can assist with funding. Financial assistance would depend on the mural's final design and the approval of the foundation's board of directors.
"Given the people involved, I'm sure we'll come up with something dynamite," Wolfe said. "We have a lot of very good artists in this town."
Richardson presented a plan for the mural to be completed in three phases. The first paintings would appear on the north side of the theater. The second phase covers the west side of the building and the last phase details the building's rear, or south side.
A sealant, or "sunscreen" that inhibits ultraviolet rays might also be applied to the finished mural to prevent fading, Richardson said.
Once Richardson finalizes the mural's layout, the Payson Town Council's newly formed Design Review Board may want to look at it, Owen said.
"I just want to make sure that the mural is attractive and speaks to the history of Payson," Owen said. "It sounds like it's going to be a great improvement."