The mural is the work of Prescott-based Mural Mice artists R. E. Wall and Margaret Dewar.
“We were immediately embraced with open arms,” Wall said, speaking of the sense of community they received in Flagstaff. “Public art is a magical addition to this community.”
Flagstaff mayor Jerry Nabour cuts the ribbon unveiling a mural in tribute to Route 66 on Nov. 1. The mural is on an outside wall of The Lumberyard, paralleling the original Route 66. (Photo by Mitchell Forbes)
The project was conceived by Bruce Aiken, NAU honors faculty member and a member of the Flagstaff Beautification and Public Art Commission.
“This part of the city needed more help,” Aiken said prior to revealing the mural to the public. “The mural should help drive visitors across the tracks to give people something to talk about.”
“We found that Route 66 has a unique place in American history,” Dewar said. “Though it was not the longest or oldest highway in the U.S., it somehow gained more notoriety than any highway in the world. It has become an icon, a symbol of American identity.”
The mural not only details the histories of the cities and people the highway intersected, but also how the road defined an era of American marketing strategies.
According to the Mural Mice, the success of Route 66 as a commercial enterprise was due to its representation of American ideals such as “freedom of the open road, the working man’s struggle and rugged individualism.”
“We tried to capture some of these ideas in the imagery of the mural,” Dewar said. “But we also tried to depict a timeline of the road.”
From 1926 to 1985 when the road was decommissioned, Route 66 was used by families fleeing the Dust Bowl and later as a military route following World War II.
Dewar said Route 66 still represents the power of myth to many Americans.