Up in the orchard-cloaked hills west of Yakima, the Mighty Tieton incubator can claim several local success stories. Tieton Cider Works, Tieton Farm & Creamery, the Goathead Press print-making studio and the Paper Hammer Studios all were born and nurtured in the arts-centered incubator, and now they are standing on their feet.
After almost a decade of acting locally, Mighty Tieton now is thinking globally. Or at least nationally.
The organization hopes to parlay a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts into what it calls the Mosaic Project; from that project a small production company would continue the work of producing upscale glass signs, following the model that has built the other enterprises. On top of the NEA grant, Mighty Tieton aims to raise $113,000 in monetary and in-kind donations for a total of $163,000.
The money would go to an apprentice program for Yakima Valley youth and to a mosaic studio; from these roots will sprout Tieton Mosaic and Tile, which will create high-quality glass mosaic signs with a cosmopolitan feel. The first of the mosaics, a 3-by-5-foot glass tile with the words "Mighty Tieton," will be unveiled Saturday at Tieton's annual Highland Community Days. The sign's unveiling will correspond with the official announcement of the NEA grant.
By 2015, the first of six planned mosaics are planned to be finished; they will be placed at various sites around Tieton. And where? During public meetings next year, Mighty Tieton will hear ideas of potential places - a reflection of the organization's place in the town's community fabric.
First Tieton, and then the world - at least in the eyes of Mighty Tieton. Starting with two professional artists along with two teenage apprentices, the organization hopes to build a company producing labor-intensive, precision-cut, high-end glass art that also serves the informational function of a sign. Mighty Tieton co-founder Ed Marquand says only a couple of companies nationwide now make such signs. In a modern wired world, a company like this can easily find a market far outside the Upper Valley.
"This is something that could go national," said Tieton Mayor Stanley Hall in a reflection of the local political support that this artistic endeavor has in a longtime orchard town. The enterprises create not only art but jobs in an area that can use them.
Apples put Tieton where it is now, but art can put it on the national map. In years to come we may see intricate glass mosaics scattered around the country - these would be Mighty Tieton's literal signs of success.
• Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.