Not only is Walla Walla, Washington known for world class wines, but also known as one of the “Best Small Art Towns” in America. A budding trend in Walla Walla’s art culture is public art. The trend emerged over ten years ago from cooperative meetings with the City of Walla Walla, art lovers and local artists. In 1992 the Blue Mountain Art Alliance was formed and in 2005, the group changed their name to ArtWalla. The group’s focus centers around the acquisition of public art and education. With over three years of meetings, the fad has since turned into an official public process that gives new artists a chance to display their art.
The variety of art that is displayed in Walla Walla includes contemporary and abstract pieces, as well as pieces that capture the spirit and history of Walla Walla. Ralph Trethewey’s “The Thinker” employs a twist on Auguste Rodin’s “Thinker” with a sculpted frog in the thinker position while Wayne Chabre’s “Guard Pigeon” is a large statue of a pigeon that sits in the middle of downtown. Tom Otterness’ “Covered Wagon” in Pioneer Park is a large bronze sculpture depicting an ox with boots pulling a covered wagon that captures the spirit of exploration that was key to Walla Walla’s early culture. Nano Lopez’s “Matilde on Her Way to the Market” is the community’s beloved bronze cow featured in front of the Walla Walla Public Library. Many different textures are part of Matilde’s surface, including a lace-stamped belly, dotted hindquarters, old computer parts, and machine gears are just a few.
At different periods during the year, ArtWalla features different public art projects, and the current piece being showcased is “Windows on the Past” produced by Jeanne McMenemy. The finished piece will be an 18-panel enamel-on-steel fabrication that will be inside the Oddfellows Façade in Heritage Park on Main Street. Visitors will be able to look into the windows and relive the Walla Walla’s history from 1850 to 1950.