MURALS THAT TELL A STORY Local photographer, Elizabeth Eaton caught this photo of Caruso at work on the mural in Miami.
or muralist Isaac Caruso, a child’s entreaty to “tell me a story” has turned into much more. Caruso’s Sam and Sara book project will involve treasure hunts, exploration - and 43 large pieces of street art in towns throughout Arizona. Caruso, an experienced street artist, will use these murals as illustrations for the book, his first ever writing project. “I’ve been toying with the concept of creating a children’s book with murals for about 10 years,” Caruso explains. “I love the idea that I’m making a book with a decent-sized mural collection that’s going to be affordable for anyone to enjoy, and then, if they want to experience the murals in real life, it’s completely free for them to see because these are all public settings.” He appreciates that his project encourages people to “go travel through Arizona having an adventure of their own trying to scavenger hunt” for the murals. Caruso wrote his story using fourline rhyming stanzas, focusing on the transformative power of daydreaming and creativity. He then sketched out the illustrations before contacting about 50 towns in Arizona offering to paint a mural, pro bono, if they would provide a public
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space. Miami was one of the first to respond. There are now 20 sites completed or confirmed for murals, with Sierra Vista scheduled next. The day Caruso finished in Miami, Mayor Al Gameros met with him and arranged for him to paint another mural in Globe later this summer. Patty Sjolin, both an artist and a Town of Miami councilperson, said, “Isaac sent us an email about the project in November or December. We didn’t want graffiti on our walls, so we checked out his work and did a background check. Then we met him, and he’s just the nicest guy.” Caruso is also very talented. With an extensive portfolio of murals in Arizona, he also has works in Israel, Russia, and the barrios of Uruguay. He’s shown multiple projects at Coachella Music Festival and was a part of a group show at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. Sjolin adds, “We were lucky to get on board right away to be able to pick an image.” Caruso is using a “first come, first served” model, where the communities who respond are allowed to choose which image from the book they want painted. “We had to compete with other towns and are really happy we got a desert scene,” Sjolin adds.
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Caruso started painting the Miami mural on May 31. He painted for four days from 6 a.m. to noon to beat the heat. He first applied primer to make the brick less porous, then used spray paint as his preferred medium. When asked how he decided to put his mural inside an existing mural, he said, “This wall really spoke to me because the abstract mountain and cactus landscape kind of matches [my image], and that’s all completely serendipitous. I came with this sketch and they showed me this wall, and it was just perfect.” Caruso adds, “I want to thank Miami for being so incredibly hospitable.” He highlights the organization of Joe Heatherly, the assistance of Sjolin - who offered artistic and dog-sitting support, the generosity and hospitality of Winona Barcon at the Copper Miner’s Rest Bed and Breakfast, and “the kind words of people as they walked by and asked about the project.” “I’m really charmed by the city of Miami,” Caruso says. Caruso is funding this project from his savings. He usually sleeps in his van with
his bull terrier, Gustavo, to save money while completing a mural. With the return of warmer weather, this is getting difficult to do. He recently launched an online crowdfunding effort at patreon.com/ samandsara to raise money to help him finish this project. To read the narrative and see samples of the illustrations, visit the website samandsara.org. Other projects that Caruso has done are available to view at isaacncaruso.com or on Caruso’s Instagram account at isaac.caruso. To see videos that, in Caruso’s words, “profile all the cities that I love and get to paint in and also show people my process in making these murals,” visit the Isaac Caruso channel on YouTube. Caruso says, “When you see public art in a community, it’s a sign of life. It means spaces are activated and people are outside enjoying them. When you live in Arizona, for the majority of the state, the months where you can be outside and enjoy the weather are precious, so we have to have enough public art to amplify the time we are outside enjoying our state.” u
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Caruso stands with his dog, Gustavo, next to his finished mural. Photo by Thea Wilshire.
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