Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Walla Walla Sweet Onions Parade

Although Walla Walla is already known for its sweet onions, the recent addition of onion sculptures on Main Street aims to bring together the art and agriculture of the city.

“The inspiration for this idea began when the Walla Walla sweet onion was named the vegetable of Washington. I wanted to do something cool and different that fits in with the fabric of Walla Walla,” said Michael Davidson, president and CEO of Tourism Walla Walla.

“People submitted designs and sponsors paid for the onions, which were made out of fiberglass,” said Davidson.

Among the designs selected was “Entwined,” by Whitman seniors Meghan Urback, Mia Huth and Elsbeth Otto.

With the assistance of Professor Mare Blocker who acted as faculty adviser, the girls got involved with the project.

“Lynn Lunden [Associate Vice President Development : Major Gifts] contacted me first and
asked me if I would gather a group of students to work on the project as a team…and the money
raised will go towards public art and events in Walla Walla to enhance our community,” said Blocker.

As faculty adviser, Blocker was responsible for meeting with the girls, giving them feedback and urging them to stay on schedule. The students came up with the design in the spring of last year, but the onion did not arrive until school was almost over.

“Megan, Elsbeth and I came up with the original design together, which was quite different from how you see the onion now.  Megan and Elsbeth began work on the onion, only to discover that it was not likely to weather the summer,” said Huth.

“We didn’t receive the onion until school was almost out, and it didn’t get completed until late summer.  By that time, each of the three of us had worked on the onion but had previous summer commitments and had to leave Walla Walla, and I believe Elena Mitchel, a junior, actually finished it,” said Urback.

“Susa Roberts, the Technical Assistant in the studio art department, also gave assistance
to the team,” said Blocker. “I really appreciate how it turned out to be a project that involved a
variety of members of the Whitman community, including faculty, staff and students.”

“I really appreciate how our onion was placed away from campus, suggesting movement and interaction within our community at large. And compositionally, I think it speaks about the colors and patterns that we see in the agricultural landscape that surrounds us, and are inspired by, throughout the seasons,” said Blocker.

The sculptures are all located along Main Street in downtown Walla Walla, and on any given day, people can be seen photographing the oversized onions.

“It’s an onion that looks like wheat fields: kind of ironic.  I hope our onion stirs people to go take a walk or a bike ride in the wheat fields.  There is a lot in them, and I see the fields in a new way every time I’m out there,” said Huth.

The onions are a part of “Sweet Onions on Parade,” and will be on display in town until later this fall.

“[Sweet Onions on Parade] is a fundraiser for local groups, including the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, Sweet Onion Marketing Association and the Blue Mountain Community Foundation,” said Davidson. “We’ll be holding an auction in the fall for the onions, and businesses around town can choose to purchase them as well. Some have already shown interest in purchasing them.”
Already, the onions have begun to take root in the community.

“When I walk around, I see people taking pictures. It’s done what it’s supposed to do: grab people’s attention,” said Davidson. “I wanted to connect the art with the agriculture. The onions won’t be around for much longer, because like the onion, they will only be in season for some time.”

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