Special Public Art Maintenance Feature: The Wrightstown Snake

Jun 8, 2017 | Public Art

A Symbol of Positive Change

In 2005, the Tucson community saw the unveiling of a dynamic, 64-foot long, tiled Diamond Back Rattler beautifying the Wrightstown and Pantano Road median.

The artwork, known as the “Wrightstown Snake,” was commissioned by former Ward 2 Council member Carol West and created by six student artists from Tucson Accelerated High School, with funding from the City of Tucson Department of Neighborhood Resources Youth Employment.

This Youth Enrichment/Employment project took two months to complete and quickly became a bright attraction for the surrounding neighborhoods.

It’s been close to 12 years now since the construction of the original Wrightstown Snake, and over those years, the artwork experienced extensive damage. The original Styrofoam body could not withstand the weather and traffic conditions and, over time, the artwork eroded.

The head was fully rebuilt, but the body had to be removed. A few years ago, an effort to rebuild the snake was kicked off by West, along with Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and current Ward 2 Council member Paul Cunningham. Sponsors donated a total of $3,200 for the snake to be fully restored and correctly constructed to withstand weather and traffic conditions.

Local artist Katie Cooper, in collaboration with the Portable Practical Education Preparation (PPEP) YouthBuild/Americorps program, took on the reconstruction project. The YouthBuild program helps youth obtain their GED diploma and learn job and leadership skills through the construction of affordable housing and engagement in community service projects.

Cooper created a new design for the Wrightstown Snake, and PPEP completed the reconstruction of the body, which will be much sturdier and require less maintenance.

“The snake is beloved by East-side residents, and I know they are pleased that ‘he’ is going to be back on the median for all to enjoy,”  said West.

Volunteers and community members gathered to welcome back the Wrightstown Snake on May 30, 2017,  at The View at Catalina Apartments.

The Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona congratulates those who worked on this public art maintenance project, along with the dedicated community members who helped with the restoration. The Arts Foundation is working with its partners in the City of Tucson to create a plan for maintenance, but it is also looking to you, the community, to help take care of the most outward-facing aspects of arts and culture in our region: public art.

You can help The Arts Foundation support public art maintenance by donating online and by taking pictures of pieces of art that are in need of repair. Please send these photos, along with a location of the piece, to info@artsfoundtucson.org. This will help create an archive and priority list for arts maintenance.

Photos courtesy of PPEP.

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