Tieton’s post office won’t be cloaked in 41,000 glass tiles, as had been hoped up to about a month ago. But that issue has been swept aside as the Tieton Mosaic Project has followed through on its 2013 vision of six mosaic signs that are on their way up around town.

Last weekend’s Highland Community Days provided a fitting forum for dedicating the signs, a product of the project the nonprofit group Mighty Tieton launched in July 2013 — with a giant assist from a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The event brought together Mighty Tieton, which has been in town for about a decade, with a longtime, old-fashioned community celebration that now is seeing a rejuvenation.

Two directional signs and a Tieton City Park sign now greet visitors to this town of 1,200, whose heritage lies in the surrounding orchards. Three more signs are on the way, including an almost 10-foot-long display that will read, “Welcome to Tieton.”

The signs aren’t the standard-issue metal kind either; they are works of labor-intensive, precision-cut, high-end art that are aesthetically pleasing as well as informational. The striking signs are inspired by New York City subway mosaics. While there is beauty in the art, there is also a business opportunity that few people anywhere are equipped to meet; it’s the only typographic mosaic business in the country and one of the few in the world. Talk about a niche.

From the beginning, Mighty Tieton has been mindful of the potential business possibilities that its work could bring to a town that was in need of economic vitality; it’s not only an art project, it’s a functional business. Groups at the local and state levels have come to recognize the nonprofit’s potential, too; partners in the mosaic project include the city of Tieton; Paper Hammer Studios, a Mighty Tieton entity; the Educational Foundation of America; the Seattle-based Raynier Foundation, the Washington State Arts Commission and the Yakima Valley Community Foundation.

Most encouraging was last weekend’s marriage of old, the Highland Community Days, with the new, Mighty Tieton. An area that has grown apples for decades is now embracing the idea of growing art-related businesses. Washington apples are, of course, renowned worldwide; it’s intriguing to see how far the mosaics spread the reputation of formerly tiny Tieton, an emerging giant in the niche art world.

 

• Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.