Blazing the “Stairizona Trail”

David Sowders/Arizona Silver Belt Regina Ortega-Leonardi, of I Art Globe, cuts the ribbon to open the newly beautified Silver King staircase Friday afternoon, inaugurating the first leg of the Stairizona Trail. Looking on are I Art Globe founder Dr. Thea Wilshire and Globe Mayor Al Gameros, holding some of the orange lanterns that would later be hung on the nearby pedestrian bridge.

On the opening day of AZ Poppy Fest – and as guests flocked to Broad Street for Globe’s First Friday events – a crowd gathered below the historic Silver King staircase to celebrate the official opening of a new city walking trail.

Newly beautified by murals and metalwork from three regional artists – metalworker Jim Ohl of Dripping Springs, who redid the railings and added decorative bollards; Globe artist Rob Otero, who decorated the landing with poppies and a Gila monster among spring clouds; and muralist Brandt Woods from Thatcher, who created a “cascading poppies” effect on the risers – the 100-year-old stairway will be part of the first leg of the Stairizona Trail, a project of I Art Globe.

With a number of local trails now closed, I Art Globe set out to create an alternative walking path that also celebrates history. “We have eight different 100-year-old concrete staircases; let’s create an urban trail,” said its founder, Dr. Thea Wilshire. Friday’s ribbon cutting by I Art Globe’s Regina Ortega-Leonardi, who spearheaded the Silver King staircase project, was followed by an inaugural stair climb and a circuit of the trail’s first leg. This included a crossing of the nearby  pedestrian bridge, where contributors to the project hung orange lanterns. Wilshire said the Stairizona Trail, thanks to community interest, went from one short route to three routes of different lengths.

It was a community effort that made the project’s first phase happen – not only the staircase itself, but also the interactive mini-murals on the adjacent Silver King Building. “They are made for you to be a part of the art; get up there, take a picture and post it,” Wilshire explained. These temporary works of public art – the building is slated to come down eventually as part of planned improvements by the City of Globe – were  created by a variety of volunteers. Pitching in on the project were students in Miami High School’s CTE leadership class, under teacher  Mary Yazzie; Globe Mayor Al Gameros and City Councilmember Mariano Gonzalez; I Art Globe members, working with the Globe High School FFA; and other community members. “We had 39 people here, from age two to 70s, painting this on Sunday,” Wilshire said at Friday’s ceremony. The artwork was made possible by a $15,000 Arizona Commission for the Arts grant to the city.

To get the historic stairs – and the pathway up to them – ready, Globe Public Works Department employees moved tons of rocks and volunteers took out four tons of topsoil by the bucket. One volunteer, Deborah Yerkovich, used a chainsaw to clear overhanging brush and dead trees from the path. Over 230,000 poppy seeds, donated by the Cathy Sanchez-Cañez Memorial Foundation, were planted around and below the staircase. BHP Mining and Freeport McMoRan have helped fund the Stairizona Trail; BHP has awarded I Art Globe a $50,000 grant for additional artwork, and Freeport has contributed $10,000.

Looking to the trail’s future, I Art Globe has issued a call to artists for one or two wall murals and three staircase murals. Wilshire said that benches – including some commemorating Chinese history and culture in Globe – and educational signage are also planned for the trail’s future.