The heart of the Fair is to create moments and memories of genuine joy with loved ones. Every aspect is planned and strategically organized to foster an environment and space that caters to this very intention. This past Fair season (2023), our team was informed of a deeply personal and touching story that warmed our hearts.
The Painted Desert stage, stationed north of the Coliseum, is reserved for talented artists who are commissioned to paint and granted creative freedom to express their vision on large wooden canvases as fairgoers watch in real time. Mario Garcia is one of those talented artists.
Born and raised in Phoenix, Garcia visited the Fair throughout his childhood. It was an annual event his close-knit siblings enjoyed attending together. Today, he is a professional artist and art instructor, specializing in calligraffiti. Owner of QLM Designs, Garcia made a name for himself through his art pieces which incorporate the arrangement of the Arabic language in visually compelling ways. His work has been displayed in the Phoenix Art Museum, and he can also be credited for a number of large scale paintings around the greater Phoenix region. In 2021, his talent caught the attention of the Arizona State Fair landing him an invitation to do a live painting performance on the Painted Desert stage, where he captured the perfect Fair landscape.
In 2023, he was again invited to paint at the Fair, but it was different this time around. A few weeks after he agreed to take the stage once again, his little sister Samantha Garcia passed, leaving him emotionally distraught and creatively depleted. Consumed with grief, he struggled to develop an idea he could paint. He even considered canceling his live painting performance. But one vital truth urged him to do otherwise- Samantha loved the Fair. Holding onto this truth led him to paint a mural from the most vulnerable place, inspired by a muse who he calls “a beautiful light,” his baby sister Samantha.
“I was nervous to paint this at the Fair… I was worried I was stepping into something too personal…” And it was personal, but impactful. And his vulnerability to share her story through a beautiful art piece that we are now honored to house became deeply personal to us. Our team at the Arizona State Fair received this story with so much gratitude and felt proud that we could host an amazing art piece with a deeply touching message behind it.
Samantha was a Phoenix native who grew up going to the Arizona State Fair and loved it “inside and out,” Garcia recounted. “She was always so immersed and the rides were her favorite part.” While her siblings were less inclined to try the more daring rides the Fair offered, Samantha embraced it. “Even into her adult life the Fair was able to bring her into that childlike state, the free, unhinged child on a playground type of vibe. The Fair was able to provide that experience for her and it was nice to have a place like that year after year.”
The mural was inspired by a photo of Samantha taken at the Fair a few years before. With beaming eyes lit up by Fair lights, she stands in front of the iconic La Grande XL Ferris Wheel doting a grand smile. The mural mirrors the image and embodies the sincere intention of the Fair, to create moments and memories of genuine joy with loved ones.
When asked what he hopes people receive when viewing the mural he said, “I just hope that they see the smile and find themselves smiling when they see it.”
You can see this piece at the 2024 Arizona State Fair in the Fall.