Walls, of course, are used to divide us. But the brilliance of Gary Morrow's wall is that it connects us.
The wall that he has built around his home at 3674 N. Park Ave. is a work of living art that showcases the beauty of the desert and the creative spirit that makes Tucson a special place. Visit his wall, and you will see a re-creation of the Catalina Mountains, saguaros made from drainage pipes that are studded with glass beads, a plane made out of tennis rackets and even an Anasazi village carved out of a cliff-like scene.
"I never had a chance to express myself," Morrow, a retired maintenance man, told the Star in 2008. "Constructionwise, I am handy, but I see objects, and I turn objects into something else."
Morrow is a master at "up-cycling" the ordinary and the used-up to create something expressive, stunning and just downright cool. Years ago, after his truck was broken into, his wife asked him to build a cinder block wall to protect the home. He did, but creative scenes inspired by the Catalinas soon followed. Why have a boring wall when you can have a magically realistic one?
He made a scorpion out of railroad spikes, and a Cupid out of aluminum foil used for ducts. Rebar ocotillos were capped with spark plugs. The art brought notoriety. He met hundreds of new people and earned the nickname of "the Wall Guy."
Now, after five years, Morrow's wall could be torn down. As the Star's Veronica M. Cruz recently reported, Morrow's wall faces a litany of zoning and building-code violations from the city of Tucson. It may also be encroaching on city property. If these code and permit violations are not addressed, Morrow's wall may come tumbling down.
The infractions range from unapproved "accessory structures," excessive materials stored in the Wall Guy's yard, unapproved storage containers and a wall height that exceeds the 6 feet without a permit.
The Wall Guy has said the structures are a gazebo, water fountain and a deck, which remain works in progress.
Because the art wall appears to encroach on city property, city spokesman Michael Graham said "there's a potential right-of-way violation" and it may have to come down.
"Whoever I need to talk to, whatever I need to do so I don't need to tear it down," Morrow told the Star's Cruz. "I'll do whatever."
In making his wall, Morrow managed to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.
His wall is an expression of creativity and symbolic of this community's quirky spirit and a shared love for the desert. The Wall Guy deserves variances for his wall and a chance to buy the city's right-of-way that he has potentially encroached on. The wall should stay, and we believe the city should help Morrow to make that happen.
Arizona Daily Star