Jacob Butler works with orange, red and mesquite sap, to finish the pottery designs on the mural on the east side of the room. To complete the mural, Butler added cactus ribs to the border.

Artists Contribute to Casa Grande Ruins Visitor Center

By Michelle Washington
Au-Authm Action News

Two Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) artists have contributed mural designs to the visitor center at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. On April 29, Community members Jacob Butler and Ron Carlos finished two five foot by five foot murals that they had hand-drawn for a new room that has been added to the visitor center. “The idea was to create two approximately sixty-inches of clay filled structure embedded onto the modern rammed earth walls to give the artistic form of 'windows to the past' which would contrast with the artwork both visually and tactilely,” said Carol West, official chief of interpretation and education at the Casa Grande Ruins National Parks visitor center. “The artist display of artwork is exactly what we hoped they would accomplish.”

The expansion of the new room added to the visitor’s center will be used as an auditorium to seat approximately 80 people for viewing films and for special presentations, meetings, and or workshops.

The new room is designed as a replica of the ruins’ old adobe “Big House” structure mixed with cement. The two murals face each other on opposite ends of the auditorium and include both past and contemporary designs of the O’odham.

Butler said, “It’s recognized by the [National Park Service] that the O’odham are the lineal ancestral descendants of the Huhugam, and that’s why they asked us to put these images on [the clay murals].”

Carlos said that the murals were made from all natural and hand dug clay. The paint that was used to paint the two murals are a combination of different colors of clays that have been finely pounded and processed. The paint consists mostly of water.

Carlos explained, “We pulverize the clay into a powder, except once the clay is pulverized we put it in water and dilute it real thin, and then you pour off that liquid part [after the sand has settled].”

Butler and Carlos both admit that they have never worked on murals like this before, using clay paints on a clay background. After weeks of traveling back and forth to the Casa Grande Ruins, they are both glad that everything worked out.
West included, “We have worked with the artists before and they will both be featured in a visitor orientation film called Casa Grande: House of Many Stories.

We interviewed Jacob Butler and consulted him about traditional crops and agriculture of the O’odham. With Ron Carlos we filmed him molding clay pots and the importance of tradition and continuity in pottery making from prehistoric time through today.”

For more information regarding the opening of the new theater at the Casa Grand Ruins National Monument call the visitor center at (520) 723-3172

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