Art Dahlstrand may just dabble in art as a hobby, but the 89-year-old certainly has a talent for it, as evidenced by a recent mural he created for Tucson Country Day School.
Richard Cooper is president, CEO and founder of the school, at 9239 E. Wrightstown Road, and Art is his brother. When Cooper asked him to create a 12-foot by 25-foot mural to be placed permanently on the stage there, Dahlstrand eagerly agreed.
“The best part, I guess, was doing it for the school. I have done a lot of work at that school over the years with Richard, and it’s always been fun,” Dahlstrand said.
He’s been working on the piece since October and finished it a few weeks ago.
“When I first started it, I was very excited to get it started. Then we ran into some of the cooler weather, and it wasn’t quite so pleasant because my paints wouldn’t respond — using house paints in lieu of regular oil paint that I use for canvases — because they dry awfully fast,” he said.
The mural was unveiled March 18, and students and staff at the K-8 charter school weren’t the only ones in attendance — nearly two dozen friends from Dahlstrand’s northwest-side retirement community were at the school for the occasion.
Dahlstrand traveled the approximately 50-mile round trip at least three days a week from his home at Splendido, 13500 N. Rancho Vistoso Blvd., to work on the mural, spending six to seven hours there each time.
To produce the giant mural, Dahlstrand sketched a black-and-white drawing of the desert-themed scene. Next, he divided his drawing into grids. He then painted the mural in small sections, which were recently pieced together and mounted on the stage.
“I really like the way it came out, and even more so that I could see it all in one view. Everybody seemed to be pleased with how it came out, I think,” he said.
The mural consists of a view from the school facing the Santa Catalina Mountains, which are in the background along with a hot-air balloon and birds flying over. In the foreground are detailed cacti, shrubs, bushes and desert animals, including quail and prairie dogs.
Also in the mural is the school’s grassy soccer field, and the letters TCDS, short for Tucson Country Day School.
Dahlstrand said he’ll continue painting for fun.
“I’ve done more since I’ve been retired here in Arizona,” he said. “I used to do some for relaxation before. I’ve always liked to do it.”