A recent addition to the Mandarin House Asian Fusion makes it impossible to miss as you head south out of town on the Beeline Highway.

For two days this week, artist have painted a 50-foot dragon on a wooden fence around the business’ new zen garden, located at 1200 S. Beeline Highway.

Owner Kevin Bailey and his daughters, Jennifer and Rachel, who manage the Mandarin House, won the mural in a raffle put on by the nonprofit ArtBeat.

ArtBeat president Elizabeth Fowler and vice president Minette Hart-Richardson each spent about 10 hours painting the colorful mural.

The two artists named the dragon Luckie.

“Kevin’s been wanting a dragon at his restaurant for a long time,” said Fowler, who also painted the sign above the restaurant. “He heard ArtBeat was doing a raffle, so he bought $100 worth of tickets (12 tickets). Now he’s got his dragon.”

ArtBeat also painted a gigantic mural of a sawmill on the back of the Sawmill Theatres complex last year, and murals along Main Street and the American Gulch. They also brightened up Main Street with a colorful crosswalk.

ArtBeat: Rhythm of the Rim is a nonprofit organized to be the network for enhancing arts in education and the community by enhancing performance, visual and literary arts opportunities and facilities for all ages in Rim Country, they said.

COVID-19 interfered with ArtBeat’s plans, just as it has with businesses like Mandarin House. Restaurants have been limited to pickup and delivery service for several weeks.

But restrictions are starting to lift and the Mandarin House and other area restaurants may soon open their dining rooms again.

“We will be opening May 15,” said Bailey. “The garden will follow on the 22nd. We are excited to have customers in the restaurant again. We think the best way to accommodate our customers with the new COVID-19 standard, we will be taking reservations mostly.”

“It adds art and culture to the town,” Hart-Richardson said. “So, we hope to see a lot more things like this.”

ArtBeat started as a 501(c)3 in 2002 but shut down in 2004 before starting up again recently.

“We didn’t get too far along with it,” Fowler said of the program’s beginning. “It just wasn’t the right time. But it’s been reborn.”

As a nonprofit, ArtBeat is eligible for grants.

“But with COVID, we’re not actively pursuing that right now because we don’t know what events we can do,” Fowler said.

So, they held a raffle to raise money.

And they’re hoping to be back soon.

“Our whole mission is to infuse art into the life of Payson,” Fowler said. “We have a few ways we want to do that and it’s a way to bring people together and meet people. Public art is one of the major things we want to do. We’re all about supporting all the arts and all the other artists.”

Fowler said Bailey is one of just many area business owners who love adding art to their business.

“We want to work with the people who make this town what it is, like people who invest in their businesses and love it,” she said. “We like working with Kevin because he cares so much about his property. He’s building the whole Zen Garden. He’s passionate. And others are passionate, as well.”

Among the goals are an all-arts council and an arts center in Payson that will feature a wide variety of arts.

“It’ll include all the arts, from music to theatre to writers,” Hart-Richardson said. “So it’ll be plays, cultural readings, etc.”

And ArtBeat wants to get more involved in education.

“We also do arts in education but the schools are closed now,” Fowler said. “We plan on working with teachers and students in developing public art projects that reflect the community spirit in our town, it’s history, make them educational projects.”

For more information, call 928-970-1825, email artbeatotr@gmail.com or visit and like their Facebook page.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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