The clock is ticking for the colorful but fading and cracking mural hanging on the north face of the Tucson Museum of Art building.
Time was supposed to have run out years ago for the temporary exhibit. Scheduled to hang for three months, it's been there 16 years.
Museum officials and artist David Tineo are working to find indoor space and preservation money to take down, restore and relocate the popular mural before time and the weather exact their ultimate toll.
Tineo, talking recently to a docents' class at the museum, said he and the mural are "going through a similar problem." The mural is losing the vibrancy of its colors and Tineo, who suffers from macular degeneration in both eyes, has lost his ability to see shades of difference in the colors of his own work.
Tineo predicted that he and the mural were making their last appearance before the annual docents' class.
Murals are generally ephemeral in nature and Tineo would have easily let go of this one if it had come down on schedule.
The mural was painted on site in 1992 by Tineo and Antonio Pazos to celebrate and publicize a traveling national exhibition of what was then called Chicano art.
The left side of the mural is Pazos' "Nuestra Futura" and the right side is Tineo's "Nuestra Raices."
The mural attracted so much positive attention that museum officials decided to anchor it more permanently to the side of the museum wall, where it has been ever since - open to the wind, rain and sun.
Now, though, it needs to come down. The paint is fading and the plywood cracking.
Tineo has seen many of his murals, an estimated 300 of them in Tucson, painted over, disassembled or demolished.
He has painted over his own work to demonstrate the intangible nature of art.
But this one has become very special to him and he'd like to find a home for it.
Fᵩma Bercht, curator of Latin-American art at the Tucson Museum of Art, said she was handed the dilemma of what to do with the fading mural when she took that post a year ago.
She said she has come to believe that "for the community and the city this is an important work."
That said, there is no money in the museum's budget to restore it, and no space inside the museum walls to permanently display it.
It is a huge work, 16 feet by 60 feet.
Disassembly of the 4-by-8-foot plywood panels will be fairly easy, Bercht said.
Restoration of the panels, though, will require a huge climate-controlled indoor space, where preservationists can lay it flat and have access to each panel.
Bercht plans to seek grant money for the restoration and is hoping Tineo's fans and collectors might also contribute to the project.
Then, there is the trickier problem of ultimately finding somewhere for it to hang.
Tineo's friend Lisa Cuestas has had preliminary discussions with Nina Trasoff's Ward 6 Council office about possibly locating the mural inside the Tucson Convention Center.
Trasoff aide Monique Martin said those discussions have been brief and preliminary, and the size of the mural will make the search difficult.
"We had a couple of ideas, but we wanted to be sure it's someplace we don't have to keep moving it. Nina is a huge fan of David's work," she said.
Tineo said the student MEChA group at Pima Community College is also interested in the mural but has not yet approached the administration there about finding a home for it.
Tineo taught mural painting at the college for years before his failing eyesight caused him to quit.
For Tineo, the mural has always been a symbol of the mural artist as "outsider."
His art covers a huge space outside the museum walls, but he has never been exhibited inside.
Bercht said that will change. She is planning an exhibition of Tineo's works, inside the museum, for sometime in 2010.