Mighty Tieton is a decade-old group founded by creative professionals — mostly urban — who saw unrealized potential in a struggling orchard town. In 2005, when we stumbled into Tieton and started to imagine what could be done with abandoned buildings and underemployed locals, we envisioned a win/win situation. We could realize some of our unusual, somewhat unconventional business ideas with real economic needs of those who live in this wonderful, friendly, beautiful community.
Ten years later, those dreams are blossoming in large and small ways in our town. Instead of only being a place with nostalgic memories of a golden past, Tieton is slowly evolving into a place that is distinctive because there is a sense that it has a future — and a bright one at that.
The Tieton Mosaic Project was initiated by our ideas, the Washington State Arts Commission, the city of Tieton and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA’s motto is “Art Works.” We are proving that every day, through the jobs we have created, the businesses we have generated, the events we stage, and the sense of optimism all of this engenders. Plus — I should add — the impressive amount of shipping we send through our beloved local post office, thanks to its helpful and professional staff.
The Tieton Post Office building was gifted to the United States Postal Service by a local family in 1989, as a gesture of generosity and community goodwill. When we dreamed up the Tieton Stamp Mosaic Project, the same spirit motivated us to devote countless hours, talent and resourcefulness to create a lasting monument to our post office and to small town post offices everywhere. That spirit has infused every aspect of our project. The generosity of our 300 contributors is its testament.
Permissions were asked for and received, but at a lower level than upper management now deems necessary. If the building needs a paint job, does the postmaster general need to be asked? Doubtful. If the building’s current rotting wood slats need to be replaced, does the vice president of facilities in Washington, D.C., need to be engaged? I hope not. Our gift to this building was treated locally as a generous maintenance issue. We were not planning to paint the Lincoln Memorial bright red, but that’s how administrators on high are seeing this project.
The design of our post office facade is inspired by the brilliant, engraved commemorative postage stamps from the early 20th century. Those 2-inch-square masterpieces of graphic design celebrated and communicated a sense of “can-do” spirit that helped build this country. In an era when less needs to be built from scratch, and instead needs to be reinvented, that spirit is needed more now than ever.
We are close to privately raising every penny we need to transform and maintain the Tieton Post Office into that symbol of can-do spirit now and for many years to come. We challenge the administrators of the United States Postal Service to find the levers to pull, the buttons to push, the papers to sign, to make this a win-win story for everyone.
We have a week to make this happen. I am waiting for your call.
• Ed Marquand is a partner and founder of Mighty Tieton.