Mystery of the Mural: An effort to track down history

Solving the mystery behind the mural

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As Tucsonans, we know the characters that frequent Fourth Avenue. Some of these people have been painted in history and have watched over the avenue for decades. But there’s a mystery to one particular mural, as new interest has piqued in learning who the people in it may be.

“You can feel the history of this place,” said Arlene Leaf, whose parents are in the mural. “This is where the real people are.”

They call 4th Avenue ‘historic’ for a reason, because of things like the mural on 4th Avenue and 6th Street, which features various snapshots of people who frequent Fourth, and their thoughts.

But, as time goes, the question begs - who are they?

It's a mural mystery the Historic Fourth Avenue Coalition wanted to solve.

Mystery of the mural, who exactly is painted in this 4th Avenue mural. (Source: KOLD News 13)
Mystery of the mural, who exactly is painted in this 4th Avenue mural. (Source: KOLD News 13) (Source: KOLD News 13)

“Wouldn’t it be fun if we started collecting information about the people in it, that make up the murals?” asked Dee Dee Koenen. She works with the Historic Fourth Avenue Coalition.

The coalition tracked down the person with most of those answers.

"He's 96. And my mom died in '09," said Eleanor "L" Kohloss, the mastermind and the artist behind the painting, as she showed the portraits she painted of her parents.

She painted the mural back in 1996, but admittedly, she says she didn’t know everyone she put in her art.

"People would bring me pictures," Kohloss said. Then she would paint them. On a brief tour of the mural, she pointed out the faces - including one man, Toby, known for his veggies.

"Almost everybody remembers him and they have stories that he would give people food who didn't have food," Kohloss said.

She also featured family members of those whose shops have lined the avenue for years.

“Her name was Mackenzie Brownell Harrison and she passed away in September of ’04,” said Shannon Haggerty. Her daughter was a later addition to the mural after she passed. Harrison was known for the dancing she’d bring to the 4th Avenue Street Fair over the years.

For others, like Leaf, the mural evokes emotion.

"Happy," Leaf said with a laugh and a smile as she glanced over at her parents on the wall.

It's that same feeling "L" feels as she has watched her mural stand the test of time, so far.

"If somebody comes here and doesn't know who these people are," Kohloss said. "I hope they just have fun looking at what people are thinking."

So where are these people now?

While the Historic Fourth Avenue Coalition has some answers, they want to know more.

They're working on a photo essay as part of a new project. A photographer has been taking photos of people near their loved ones on the wall.

It's an effort to preserve the essence of the avenue.

Anyone with any history on a person in the mural can reach out to the Historic Fourth Avenue Coalition via the Facebook page.

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