ArtWalla Supports Large Collection of Public Art

James Kennedy

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Walla Walla’s art scene has been steadily growing over the years, and the variety of public art displayed in the downtown area is a testament to that trend. ArtWalla, a local nonprofit that engages art eduction in the community, helps foster the public art scene by putting out calls for artists and working with them to create and install public art, which is then donated to the city.

Photo by Allie Felt

ArtWalla is looking for the artistic interpretation of installation, but also is concerned with the materials that will be used, safety considerations and … the artists’ ability to follow through on the timelines, budget and other details of the project,” said ArtWalla Director Tricia Harding. 

There are 15 major public art installations in Walla Walla, but here are three that show the variety of pieces displayed in the city. A full map is available on the ArtWalla website.

“Windows on the Past” is a photographic mural project next to Heritage Park on Main Street on the side of the sandstone facade of the 1902 Odd Fellows Temple. The temple was one of the first projects by prolific Walla Walla architect Henry Osterman, who would go on to to design buildings like the Carnegie Library and Liberty Theatre. It was saved in 1993 due to $70,000 raised by ArtWalla. The organization raised an additional $300,000 to create the “Windows on the Past” installation, which features photographs meant to celebrate the cultural diversity of Walla Walla.

The historic and contemporary photographs are reproduced in porcelain enamel on steel panels,” said Harding.  “It is a wonderful visual commemorative to the history of our community.”

“Matilda on Her Way to the Market,” which is located on E. Alder Street, is the work of local artist Nano Lopez, who based the cow sculpture on childhood memories in Colombia combined with Walla Walla culture. The produce displayed in the basket is representative of Walla Walla exports. The sculpture uses many materials, from bronze to lace to even old computer parts.

“Matilda is inspired by long-horned cows that Nano grew up with in Columbia, but is also representative of the hard work and human efforts of bringing the agricultural products to market here in the Walla Walla valley,” said Harding.

“He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother,” which is located on E. Main Street, is a sculpture by Bill Piper, a local artist and educator who experimented with different types of stone carving while teaching in Lacoste, France. The body is made of three different pieces of material that weigh half a ton. Two pieces were carved from white Colorado “Yule” marble, and the third forms a base made of black granite.

Piper describes the work on the ArtWalla website. 

Photo by Allie Felt

“[It is] a reminder to all of us to lend a helping hand whenever possible and to be tolerant while treating others as our brother,” he said. 


ArtWalla continues to promote growth of the Walla Walla public art scene, and more installations are dedicated each year.

“Walla Walla has been very lucky to have a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a body of public art for our community to enjoy and interact with,” said Harding. “When you combine the body of public art at Whitman College, Walla Walla Community College and the city’s collection, we are blessed with a great public art collection for a small community.”

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