Who would think a small, rural agricultural town could entice hundreds of artists to paint murals? Toppenish, a community of only 10,000 in south-central Washington state, did just that.
In 1989, to commemorate the Washington Centennial, 15 Western artists came together to paint a mural in one day. Over the next 30-some years, the Toppenish Mural Society hosted dozens of such events. Today 78 historically accurate murals adorn walls and buildings across town.
“Some murals are ‘small,’ some 200 feet long,” according to the Mural Society. Others “show the cultural diversity of the area and still others reflect the city’s theme of ‘Where The West Still Lives.’
“The common theme of the Toppenish murals is the depiction of its rich history. They lay out the drama of the early days and honor men and women that made significant contributions to the city.” Many others illustrate common, everyday life in rural Washington between 1840 and 1940. Each mural includes a short description of the scene or person it illustrates.
One such mural is “Rodeo,” painted in 1991 by Portland artist Newman Myrah. The mural depicts “a time-worn rodeo poster with brick showing through,” according to the Mural Society. The following year, Myrah surprised the town by returning to paint himself into the mural “on a ladder doing his work.”
If you go
While in Toppenish, take time to stop by its three museums. The unique American Hop Museum honors the Yakima Valley as the USA’s top hop-producing region. The Northern Pacific Railway Museum is housed in a restored 1911 depot. It includes historic artifacts including a complete engine repair facility. The Yakama Nation Cultural Center features Mother Nature dioramas, Plateau artwork and the world’s largest Strongheart collection.
For free overnight RV parking, stop by the Legends Casino. Look for the white water tower in the parking lot and be sure to let security know.