On February 24, Café Rio Mexican Grill, which specializes in fresh Mexican food, opened a new location on tribal land in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, at 8930 N. 90th St.
Café Rio recently revealed a 3.0 version of the restaurant with new postcard-style murals by Salt Lake City, Utah muralist and acrylic painter Josh Scheuerman.
The design concept is a throwback to early promotional postcards on which an artist would include features from the city and surrounding areas, such as landmarks, specific events in history or some of the area’s natural beauty.
When the mural was first designed for the Scottsdale Café Rio location, it was representative only of Scottsdale. However, since the restaurant was on tribal land, Café Rio decided that the artwork should feature themes relating to SRPMIC and the surrounding landscape.
SRPMIC artist Jeffrey Fulwilder, who is known for his artwork throughout the Community, was tasked to help bring to the mural important imagery that represents the Community as a whole. Fulwilder gave Scheuerman the history of the tribe and wanted him to incorporate landmarks, plants and animals that are significant to the Community.
The mural was redesigned, and Scheuerman got to work with Fulwilder at his side. “Working with Jeff was really good. He provided a knowledge base for me and gave me the history [of the tribe], which I was unfamiliar with,” said Scheuerman. “I think it’s important for Café Rio to have reached out and made a decision on their own accord, because I think it’s very important to honor the tribe and the land, give back to the Community and acknowledge where the location is.”
As for Fulwilder, he is humble about the works of art he creates and doesn’t want the attention on him, but rather on how the Community is represented through his artistic contributions.
“I just kind of led Josh in the direction that he didn’t know [much about]. It was really easy working with him. I gave him the history that I know from our travels, and then we went to the area here with the animals, the flowers, the desert plants, some of the mountains,” said Fulwilder.
The mural was started on Valentine’s Day and was finished by February 17.
Fulwilder’s many art creations can be seen throughout the Community. At Two Waters Building A, four traditional Huhugam-design baskets and light sconces (an interpretation of water, gourd and coyote track designs) can be found, and at Building B, Fulwilder’s “Waiting for the Fruit to Ripen” sculpture features ocotillo, prickly pear and ancient pots.
Many other pieces of Fulwilder’s artwork are located in and around the Talking Stick Entertainment District, with the “Fire Keepers” at the Pavilions at Talking Stick and the “Basket Dancers,” “Flute Players” and “Gourd Men” at Pima Center. Other Fulwilder pieces include “The Horse Called Creation” at Rancho Solano School and the “Water Birds” installation at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.