Pecans, grapes, cattle, irrigation ditches, and tractors: just some of the typical sights around town. And now on display in a colorful, artistic mural for all of Camp Verde to enjoy. At the gateway to Main Street, Thanks-A-Latte boasts a brand-new agricultural history mural, from our current farming landscape and produce all the way back to ancient Native American culture. Since farm to table is a way of life in Camp Verde, this mural celebrates what we bring to the table. And it really brightens up Main Street!

“This work began in August 2018, when a 10-member focus group of community members met to begin the design process,” said Sebra Choe, Economic Development Specialist with the Town of Camp Verde. Muralist and local artists were commissioned for a one-of-a-kind gift to all Camp Verdeans, the Yavapai-Apache Nation, and our beloved farmers. The project is facilitated and sponsored by the Town of Camp Verde Economic Development department, along with a slew of other generous sponsors, artists, and volunteers. “Our goal is to support business and beautify downtown, while engaging the community in the arts and increasing pride in Camp Verde.”

Mural and teaching artist Joan Bourque said she, “would make sketches, then meet again to discuss more and more of their ideas. We continued until we felt we had the best representation we could. And, as predicted we are still discovering more and making changes as we go.”

Abstract artist and art instructor Julie Bernstein Engelmann described how, “Joan designed the original vision and the team met several times to refine the elements. I worked with her on the final drawing layout; we used a grid and chalk to scale it up to wall dimensions. And the team of artists jumped right in and got an amazing amount of painting done each day.” 

On November 6, 2018, volunteers, muralists, and artists began transforming a building wall into a beautiful work of art, titled Camp Verde Grows, with a goal to finish by December 20 as a Christmas present to the town. Even with some interfering rain, they completed the mural early on December 13!

Engelmann went on to explain how, “The mural title came out of a group effort. A number of folks had submitted titles that were compiled in an email. I thought I had seen Camp Verde Grows on the list, so I mentioned it at the meeting and everyone thought it was a perfect title. When I looked at the email again later, it turned out that title wasn’t actually on the list! It was just a lucky amalgamation of the others. [Camp Verde] is a friendly community, home-grown, creative, diverse, and cohesive. Plus, it has given both my children jobs!”

Joan Bourque was the Art Teacher at South Verde High for three years. She described Camp Verde’s, “rich landscape and vivid history and diversity. Just as Camp Verde’s ecosystem has nurtured a variety of healthy crops, their population and history has nurtured a healthy and diverse way of life. When I look at the mural, I say to myself, ‘yes, we are surrounded by a beautiful landscape with mountains, rivers and sunshine. We have a history of people working this land to keep healthy and offer a lively future to their children.’”

Endorsed by the Verde Valley Farmers’ Market, Camp Verde Grows depicts the town’s agricultural history and reflects its continuing development and evolution. Details like a horse-drawn plow, glow-in-the-dark stars, Montezuma Castle, and vineyards tell our story.

Our Visitor Center Ambassador and artist Gaylene Allen said, “It’s a great country life.” And she particularly enjoyed painting, “one of the squash blossoms”.

“Painting the bee was my favorite part. He just turned out so cool. Others turned out great as well, but he was especially fun,” said Kay Pronchko, a farmer who is also a painter and lives in Camp Verde for half of the year. What better combination of knowledge and skills to work on the agricultural mural?

“I like the basket because it is a vision of a manmade object holding many man-grown foods. Baskets symbolize the handmade from locally grown grasses while incorporating a design or art from the heart,” explained Bourque.

Thorough research on the chosen images is evident throughout the piece, from the striking western tanager markings to the Yavapai symbol painted as a petroglyph. Engelmann even refenced a star chart for guidance and accuracy when painting the glow-in-the dark stars.

Choe would like to, “thank Gertrude Smith, Reba Franco, Vincent Randall, Chris Coder, Chasen Ross from the Yavapai-Apache Nation Cultural Resource Center for their consultation on the historical accuracy of the tribal elements. We would like to thank Joan Bourque for the most rewarding experience of working with her as the lead muralist. She is a consummate professional whose ability to lead collaborative community art is second to none.”

Despite brisk temperatures some days, Verde Valley muralist Joan Bourque and local artists Julie Engelmann, Kay Pronchko, Gaylene Allen, Lynette Kovacovich, and Pat Kiminski painted while perched atop scaffolds. A big thank you to every single painter and volunteer for all your hours of hard work and for sharing your talent with the town.

“This has been an amazing process! I was an Art major and haven’t done something like this since college.” Kay Pronchko lives in Camp Verde half of the year and owns Covered Bridge Gardens in Ohio, where she spends her summers.

Babe and Bet Gerstner, mother and daughter artist team from Cottonwood and Clarkdale, spent Babe’s birthday painting. She gave Camp Verde a gift on her own birthday! South Verde High School artists took a class field trip to paint the hands and landscape. Really well done! Volunteers and sponsors truly made this happen. Even a local farmer stopped by to help paint. We truly appreciate you all!

Organizations and individuals also found other, more practical ways to contribute. You can’t paint a mural without paint. Or paintbrushes. Or buckets. You get the picture. Sponsorships and donations provide essential materials, supplies, and a dedication plaque. Many murals in Arizona that are professionally commissioned cost anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000! But Camp Verde did it for only $4,000, with over $3,900 raised so far!

Community members, businesses, and organizations dropped off and mailed in donations. Anonymous donors have been coming by the coffee shop and placing donations in a jar. Sponsors for this town art display made it a reality, showing that Camp Verde supports community art. From the bottom of our heart: thank you, sponsors and contributors!

Gold Sponsors: Hauser and Hauser Farms, Kevin & Claudia Hauser, Salt Mine WineSinagua Malt Inc, Chip Norton, Arizona Public Service – APSVisit Camp Verde AZKiwanis Club of Camp VerdeCamp Verde Business Alliance, Raul’s Hair Salon, Gary Kenfield, Town Economic Development

Silver Sponsors: Drs. Jane and Marshall Whitmire, Plowing Ahead Ranch, Thanks-A-Latte , Camp Verde Unified School District, Anonymous, Muralist Joan Bourque, Artists: Julie Engelmann, Gaylene Allen, Lynette Kovacovich, and Kay Prochko (Covered Bridge Gardens)

Bronze Sponsors: Camp Verde ACE Hardware, Best Buy Homes (Dobie Champion), Cris and Bruce McPhail, Gary Verburg and Katherine Ott Verburg, Ray Floyd, and Will Field

As Engelmann said, “Everyone should have their hand in a piece of a mural. I think it is inspiring. No one can help looking at it as they pass through the town. Many people stop to express joy at seeing the art unfold. The mural adds color and an artsy charm to this already warm and homey Main Street.”

When asked how the mural will impact the community, Pronchko replied, “It already has. I have seen people responding.”

And Allen said she hopes it will, “instill a sense of pride in Camp Verde’s past and future. I’m grateful for the opportunity to play a small part.”

The Camp Verde Grows mural is a pilot project for considering future art displays based on the level of community support. After weeks of daily painting, the true colors of Camp Verde businesses, residents, and artists are shining brighter than ever with the completion of this beautiful mural. Thank you for your feedback, donations, and participation! When a small town comes together, beautiful things can happen.

Recipe for Camp Verde Grows Mural

  • 20 hours of planning: August – September 2018
  • 18 talented painters to contribute
  • 200 hours of painting: November 5 – December 13
  • 20 business sponsors
  • 180 people stopping by to admire the artwork and encourage the artists
  • 2,543 engagements on Facebook
  • Community-wide support

Special acknowledgment for the core team of artists: mural and teaching artist Joan Bourque, farmer/artist Kay Prochko, abstract artist and instructor Julie Engelmann from Rimrock, and Gaylene Allen and Lynette Kovacovich, Town of Camp Verde Visitor Center Ambassadors.