Former ASU student, local artist paints Tempe pride mural

Local artist Lauren Lee designed and painted a mural near Jaycee Park in Tempe, which will aim to combat graffiti and beautify the city.

The City of Tempe has combated graffiti in a unique way recently: by painting a typically tagged area with a giant, dual-purpose mural.

The mural, which is located on the side of a city-owned building at Jaycee Park, was designed by local artist Lauren Lee. Lee was chosen out of 45 Arizona artists who submitted their own proposals.

Lee explained that the mural, titled "Don't Wake the Dreamer," has a greater meaning behind it than simply displaying city pride.

"It is an image of a sleeping woman, covered in flowers with birds around her," she wrote in an email. "Its meaning is to allow ourselves the time and energy to dream, to not give up on our dreams and to find hidden meaning in our waking life."

Lee said she came up with the dreaming idea while meeting with neighborhood representatives and community stakeholders during her time as a finalist.

A native of Yuma, Arizona, Lee moved to Tempe when she was 18 to attend ASU. She said she wanted to convey a hopeful message for the other students and residents looking to find themselves in the city.

"Being a university town, many of us come or came to Tempe to dream, to find out who we want to be," she wrote. "In my life I have found that fate far outweighs my ideas of who I want or wanted to be, and that following these signs and symbols is how we eventually create a life. We do not have to stop dreaming, life is and can be magical."

Maja Aurora, arts coordinator for the City of Tempe, said Lee's mural will help combat endless tags of graffiti and enhance the beauty of the city.

"The (Tempe Public Art) partnership with the Graffiti Abatement Team was developed wanting to find creative ways to deter graffiti," she said. "(Lee's) artwork is now a piece of fine art in the community."

Graffiti is a major issue on the city-owned building, Aurora said, which is a popular site for park goers and community members of all ages.

"We are wanting to continue to improve the neighborhoods and enhance our community," she said.

Aurora said that Lee, who lived in the city during her time at ASU, displayed a great amount of pride in Tempe in her proposal, which encouraged the selection panel to choose her design.

"Her connection to Tempe and her history with Tempe and her own feelings of what Tempe meant to her when she described that to members helped them connect with her even more," she said.

Aurora said Tempe has another mural project in the works located near Daley Park on College Avenue, which will also feature a local artist. 

"It's awesome to see artists continue to make art in the city and have these opportunities," Aurora said. "We're very proud to have them in the community."

Reach the reporter at Jlsuerth@asu.edu or follow @SuerthJessica on Twitter.

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