An artist’s 1882 depiction of the Grand Canyon has found its way on the front of the IMAX Theater in Tusayan. A mural of the geologic wonder was completed early last week, turning the bland exterior of the large building into an alluring vision.
It took about a week to put up IMAX Theater’s exterior mural. The image originates with an 1882 lithograph.
“This is something we came up with that we’ve been in the process of for a couple of years,” said Loui Coleman, IMAX general manager. “This is a big, ugly building and how do you disguise a big, ugly building? But we didn’t disguise it, we just tried to make it look better.”
Coleman said the artwork is a lithograph by William H. Holmes entitled “Panorama from Point Sublime in the Kaibab.” It was published in Clarence Dutton’s “Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District, Atlas, 1882.”
“They got it from the Library of Congress and then we had to have it blown up,” Coleman said. “It was blown up 1,126 percent. It’s an amazing 3M process of applying the final graphic onto PVC panels. It was an involved project.”
Coleman familiarized herself with the Holmes lithograph by reading about it in the book “Majesty of Grand Canyon: 150 Years of Art.”
“It’s an interesting thing; we’re delighted to have it, because I think it does add to the street,” Coleman said.
In addition to the mural, IMAX has also painted the exterior roof and upgraded the lobby.
“We have new furniture in food and beverage, picnic tables and yellow umbrellas,” she said. “The highlight inside the building, the focus is on the National Geographic exhibit.”
Coincidentally, John Wesley Powell was one of the founders of National Geographic in the 19th century. And of course, he’s the famous Colorado River explorer who is the main subject of IMAX Theater’s Grand Canyon film. Another tie-in is National Geographic has an ownership interest in the theater.
“This was put together by a team at National Geographic,” Coleman said of the exhibit. “It include photographs that have been in National Geographic magazine going back to the 1800s.”
The lobby exhibit, which was drawing interest from visitors even before it was completed, includes three subjects — Powell, Native Americans and mapping the Canyon.
Coleman said the exhibit is not quite finished. Translations of the text will be done in various languages common to Grand Canyon’s international visitors.
IMAX Theater plans more phases to its renovation.
“It’s an amazing transformation and we’re not through yet,” she said. “We want to move our ticket booth inside and do some more construction of cabinets and stuff. We’re on a roll.”
Coleman said the theater will also upgrade its curb and guttering and landscape areas around the theater. Inside, there will be some construction in the patio area and the entire building will get new flooring.
IMAX Theater, which draws up to 2,000 visitors per day during the peak summer season, has been operating in Tusayan since the early 1980s.