Joe Schmitt writes a weekly blog called The Good Life, featuring information about the region’s history, culture, climate and economy. The blog also showcases new residents, clubs and organizations, outdoor recreational opportunities and local events.
Twenty two years ago leaders in the Toppenish community came up with an ambitious idea to “paint” the story of its western heritage through murals. This vision is alive and well today. The city has 72 murals and plans to do another one at its annual Mural-In-A-Day event on Saturday, June 4th. Community leaders Bill Davison, Joseph Murphy, and Roger McCarthy formed the Toppenish Mural Society. Davison, an avid art collector, donated his large collection of western paintings to the organization and sparked the mural society’s initial efforts. At its inaugural event fifteen artists worked together to paint the city’s first mural, “Clearing the Land”.
As the Mural Society gained momentum it worked hard to ensure that murals were historically accurate, met high artistic standards, and fit the time period between 1850 and 1950. The group also worked closely with the Yakama Indian Nation so that the Toppenish area’s tribal history was celebrated and depicted accurately.
Today, Toppenish’s murals attract over 10,000 tourists annually, and artists from all over the Western half of the United States and Canada look forward to working on each one. According to Karen Gulley, board chair of the Toppenish Mural Society, “The focus now is not only producing a new mural annually but preservation of these murals. Our entire community takes pride in these works of art and truly steps up to support them. Bill, Joe, and Roger’s dream for this project has more than transformed this town; it gave it long-lasting pride.”
To learn more about the Mural Society and its upcoming Mural-In-A-Day celebration, click here.
* Mural "Clearing the Land" by Phil Kooser