If you're driving down Speedway just after dawn and pass a man with a camera on an Iron Horse bike, wave and wish him luck.
Chances are you've seen Jerry Peek on one of his early morning rides when fewer cars are about. He's hunting for murals, those expressive urban artworks that celebrate Tucson's diversity, and he's very good at it.
By Peek's estimate, the city has more than 500 visible murals, and he aims to find and photograph every one.
At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Peek will speak and show slides of some of his favorite murals in the Arizona Senior Academy building, adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center.
Academy Village is an active-adult community off Old Spanish Trail, six miles south of Saguaro National Park East.
Peek's lecture is free and open to the public.
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Tucson is known as a city of murals. Its muralists range from David Tineo, widely recognized for the artistry of his socially conscious works, to the students who covered the exterior of Howell Elementary School with enchanting desert animals playing pianos and guitars.
Restaurants hire muralists to create alluring dreamscapes on drab walls. Auto repair shops favor fast cars and fiery scenes. No freeway underpass is complete without the muralist's finishing touch.
Peek and other contributors post photos of new murals almost daily on their blog. The blog was conceived in 2006 by writer and videographer Randy Garsee, who's also a former local TV anchor. When Garsee's work took him away from Tucson, he enlisted Peek, a website designer, as the manager.
Peek's enthusiasm is contagious. "It's back!" he exclaimed on May 28, posting a photo of Martin Moreno painting a new mural for the recently renovated La Pilita Museum and El Tiradito shrine, two downtown landmarks in Barrio Viejo.
The most productive mural-hunting grounds are on the south and west sides, Peek said. He singles out Barrio Anita, in the shadow of Interstate 10 between Speedway and St. Mary's Road.
"There may be no better visual feast in one location than Oury Park," he says. "It extends from the recreation center to the monumental wall mural at the freeway frontage road."
That evocative mural tells a complex story. Drawing on historical sources and community memories, artists Joshua Sarantitis and William Wilson created a compelling narrative weaving Barrio Anita's past with its vision for the future.
Few murals are that ambitious, but Peek is excited by them all. On a tip, he found an exquisitely painted desert scene at a freeway on-ramp. Even more surprising, it was signed by Jos Villabrille, a well-known muralist.
"If you keep your eyes open as you travel around the city," he says, "you'll be amazed at what you see."
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