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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Paint the Cage’ project retains Tucson’s artsy vibe despite construction work

    Robert Alcaraz
    Robert Alcaraz/Arizona Summer Wildcat Nick Carrillo sits next to the construction site on 4th Ave and 6th St, where he has assembled flowers on various fences as a peaceful protest.

    Since the publication of this article, the City of Tuscon has taken down the project mentioned in this story. More information is at the bottom.

    The clock nears 10 p.m. as Fourth Avenue night crawlers make their way through the mess left by streetcar construction. A chain link fence at the intersection of Sixth Street divides the avenue, where the demolished asphalt, heavy equipment and bright blue Porta-Potties have overwhelmed what was once a beautifully artistic street corner. But on this particular night, passersby seem to be giving the fence an extra glance.

    Sitting atop the cement barricade that lines the roadway is local artist and Fourth Avenue resident Nick Carrillo. Armed with a basket of faux flowers, Carrillo has begun to “Paint the Cage,” a project he initiated this month to beautify the Fourth Avenue construction site. He has already hung nearly 200 flowers on the fence, and has no intention to stop anytime soon.

    “I would eventually like to see the entire fence covered in flowers to create a beautiful promenade for pedestrians,” Carrillo said.

    Carrillo explained that his vision for the project requires a mass effort. Though the drunken late night crowd has already proven eager to participate, Carrillo said he would like to see more involvement from the community. He said he hopes the project will spark more people’s curiosity and encourage them to talk to people they don’t know.

    “That’s what networking on Fourth Avenue is all about, being open and not being afraid to talk to a random passerby and see what you might learn from them,” Carrillo said.

    He describes the flowers as therapeutic against the clutter of construction and a way to bring back the artistic flair that is synonymous with Fourth Avenue. For Carrillo, the fences have created a “Berlin Wall effect,” which makes people feel uncomfortable, closed off and confined.

    “When human beings are caged in close proximity, tension rises and conflict escalates,” Carrillo said. “Combine that with the difficulty TPD has getting to areas on Fourth that offer no car access, and you can have a potentially dangerous situation.”

    Carrillo has been in good standing with construction administrators, who he said appreciated the decorations. The only caveat they have proposed is to refrain from hanging any signs or posters with political messages and advertising.

    For now, Carrillo encourages Tucsonans to hang a flower to help maintain the artistic vibe of Fourth Avenue.

    The City of Tucson made actions Wednesday to remove all flowers from the fences along Fourth Avenue, along with signs belonging to the Fourth Avenue Merchant Association. Nick Carrillo, initiator of the Paint the Cage project, was able to retrieve his flowers along with the FAMA signs from the Granite Construction compound.

    Carrillo began a petition the following day and has already received immense support from members of the community as well as members of FAMA. He hopes to gather a couple hundred signatures before approaching the city council.

    “If this is done right, we can see Fourth covered in flowers once again for good,” Carrillo said.

    Anyone interested in signing the petition can find Carrillo at the corner of 4th Avenue and 6th Street between 12 and 2 p.m. on Sunday June 24th. He will be carrying flowers and welcomes anyone to contact him by phone at 520-820-8526

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