Riverside Mural Project showcases talent and collaborative spirit

WSU students spread out on metal scaffolding painting a mural.
The more than 100-foot-long mural facing South Fork Palouse River on the 400 block of East Main Street was completed earlier this fall by Seattle-based artist and mural designer Tori Shao in collaboration with WSU students, faculty, and staff (photo by Shelly Hanks/WSU Photo Services).

The latest in a series of mural projects showcasing the outstanding talent of local and regional artists, as well as the collaborative spirit of Washington State University, is being dedicated this week in downtown Pullman.

A joint effort by the Pullman Arts Foundation — founded by WSU Associate Professor of Painting/Intermedia Joe Hedges — and the Downtown Pullman Association led to the creation of the Riverside Mural Project. Its official unveiling will be open to the public and take place at 11 a.m. Oct. 12 in the adjacent Pine Street Plaza.

The more than 100-foot-long mural facing South Fork Palouse River on the 400 block of East Main Street was completed earlier this fall by Seattle-based artist and mural designer Tori Shao in collaboration with local artist and WSU graduate Sarah Barnett, as well as WSU students, faculty, staff and other volunteers.

The project’s timing allowed for the participation of Hedges’ students, giving them valuable experience in preparing massive outdoor art features.

“Although the vision of individual artists is an important part of art-making, one thing our department does well is provide students opportunities to work together,” Hedges said of WSU’s Department of Art. “And in doing so they learn valuable skills that extend beyond the classroom. Additionally, students learn how community service and the arts are connected, and how painting can be a powerful tool to bring communities together.” 

Long shot of the Riverside Mural Project.
The Riverside Mural Project is one of more than a half dozen large-scale paintings done on the facades of prominent buildings throughout Pullman undertaken by the Pullman Arts Foundation and its collaborators (photo by Shelly Hanks/WSU Photo Services).

The mural is a natural landscape complete with plants and wildlife familiar to the Palouse, blending with the scenery along the South Fork Palouse River. 

The Riverside Mural Project is one of more than a half dozen large-scale paintings done on the facades of prominent buildings throughout Pullman undertaken by the Pullman Arts Foundation and its collaborators. Murals at Jefferson and Kamiak Elementary schools, the Palouse Discovery Science Center and the Hotel McCoy, as well as the End Racism Now — Black Lives Matter mural in downtown Pullman, all feature contributions from WSU students and faculty.

Tyler Punch, a student in Hedges’ intermediate painting class, said the project gave him valuable insight into how massive displays are brought to life.

Closeup of a new mural in downtown Pullman.
The mural is a natural landscape complete with plants and wildlife familiar to the Palouse (photo by Shelly Hanks/WSU Photo Services).

“I learned that when doing an important project like that, communication with those around you is so important to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Punch said. “I believe our art is going to contribute to giving personality to Pullman and will generate some positivity year round. It was really nice to see all the people of Pullman looking at the mural as we painted it and especially those who yelled out encouragement. I can’t wait to see the mural standing out against the extreme winter here.”

Approximately $30,000 in private donations and local grants allowed for the creation of the Riverside Mural, with more than 100 individual contributors.

More information on the Pullman Arts Foundation, as well as the Downtown Pullman Association, are available on each group’s websites.

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