Flagstaff, Arizona and the bordering Indigenous Nations are home to many communities, each with distinct stories and visions. Living in this high desert region guarantees that water will always play a part in these stories, regardless of who you are. And still, there are ongoing political and environmental threats to the health of the water supply, and in turn, the health of the human, plant, and animal communities who live there.
From water mining for coal extraction on the Navajo and Hopi Nations to a proposed ski area expansion using reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks, water is at the center of the efforts of several grassroots organizations working for the health of their land and Nations. In Flagstaff itself there is one primary seasonal stream, the Rio de Flag, that runs through downtown. One of the main tributaries of the Rio has been paved over, and currently runs directly beneath the historical route of Route 66 in the Southside Neighborhood.
“What Flows Beneath Our Feet” is a collaborative mural that was designed and painted during a week-long Community Mural Training. The training was facilitated by Lawrence, Kansas muralist Dave Loewenstein with support from the Black Sheep Art Collective and the Urban Lifeways Project. Additional partners included the Master of Arts in Sustainable Communities and Program in Community, Culture, and Environment at Northern Arizona University.
The mural depicts the Rio de Flag literally going underground, but also speaks to the histories of the Southside neighborhood that have also gone underground, been forgotten, or suppressed. The design process and resulting mural speaks to the importance of finding the intersection between water, urban agriculture, public art, shared history, emerging visions and collaborative efforts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members- all of which are essential as we work to renew the health of our communities.