For the past six months, Joe Pagac (sounds like magic) has been painting 60-by-22-feet murals on the east side of the Rialto Theatre to promote bands playing at the downtown venue. The attention-grabbing murals are giving Pagac extra attention, too. As a result, he's now doing murals at the Bookmans at Grant Road and Campbell Avenue, and the new Sir Veza's Taco Garage at Speedway Boulevard and Swan Road. For more Joe info, visit www.joepagac.com.

How did this all start?

It started with a buddy of mine, Charlie Levy (of Stateside Presents). We've been friends for three or four years now, and he's a concert promoter. ... About seven months ago, we decided to try doing a mural project up at First Fridays in Phoenix. He had a band that he wanted to promote up there. We got a wall on the side of a gallery, the Eye Lounge, and I had six hours to do it. That one didn't come out that well. I'd just never done anything like that before. It got some bad reviews. It got some good reviews for the idea, but it got some bad reviews, too. It was only staying up for a month, anyway, and it was overall really successful. And since Charlie had connections over at the Rialto, we asked if we could do something there.

And you live in Tucson, right?

Yeah, I live in Tucson. ... Charlie pitched it to the Rialto for one of his shows. We did (murals for) a few of his shows, and now the Rialto has kind of jumped on it and loves it. And I don't know if you've noticed, but Bookmans has started to do it, too, for the Rialto shows. What I'd really like to do is get it to the point where I am doing performance murals here, like in Phoenix, where it's just six hours for the whole mural—although it is just killer on the body.

Before you start these music murals, do you try to listen to the bands' music?

For every band that I do, I download as much of their music as I can, and try to watch a bunch of their music videos, and try to get a feel for the band. And some of the bands that I get to do, I actually already listen to their music. But some of them, I have no clue about, so I have to make sure I sit down and listen to them.

Every month, you do a new mural. Is it hard to paint over the previous work?

You know, it's sad and cool, but people are ready for it to change after a month. A lot of people, when I'm down there painting, are like, "Oh, good, you're changing it. It's a cool mural, but it's about time." And I'm like, "Wow, it's only been a month. You're ready for the next thing?" But even the murals I paint where people pay a lot of money, I would say two-thirds have been painted over already. And they are really beautiful.

Do you have any favorites so far?

Actually, Sonic Youth. That was my own painting. I was trying to figure out what to do for them. They have been around for so long and have done so much different stuff. And with all of these murals, they kind of give me permission now to do whatever I want. I had a painting on a canvas; I realized I could make it work for that wall. That was just a fantastic way to see my own art work 50 to 60 feet across.

Are you getting paid for these murals? You're not just getting book credit and tickets?

I've also gotten book credit, but they pay me cash, too, because I have to cover my expenses. I don't make a tremendous amount off of them, but I can do them quick, and it's just great to be outside, and get the exposure, and people come up and want to chat. In Phoenix, when I'm doing those six-hour murals, I can't really talk to people. But down here, I can stop and chat.

What are you going to do during the summer?

The problem is that during the summer, it's so hot. I'd have to do it in the morning, like 4 a.m. I'm just going to have to do it really early in the morning. ... I use brushes that are 5 inches wide, and rollers. The paint might stay wet long enough to get the mural done, from the bucket to the wall.


By Mari Herreras
Tucson artist Joe Pagac talks about his new murals at Bookmans on Grant and the Rialto Theatre.
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