The Palouse Science Discovery Center in Pullman wanted to do something bold.
Director Meri Joswiak said the center’s board of directors set a goal to repaint the exterior of the nonprofit’s facility on Nelson Court and incorporate artwork along the way. In January, they had discussions with Joe Hedges, executive director of the nonprofit Pullman Arts Foundation, about working together on the project.
Hedges pitched them the idea of doing a large, colorful mural to completely transform the building’s industrial white and gray walls.
This week, a team of artists led by Lee Sekaquaptewa finished that mural.
Joswiak said she is “completely over the moon” about the result.
“It’s so bold that it’s a little bit shocking,” she said.
Sekaquaptewa’s design includes rolling Palouse hills and depictions of animals that make their home here such as magpies, robins and deer. He also wanted to highlight water and salmon, which are important to the local Native American tribes. He added blown-up depictions of microscopic organisms that live in water called gastrotricha.
Hedges said that when they settled on the environmental theme, the decision to celebrate the importance of water made even more sense during a summer filled with dry weather and wildfires.
“His imagery I think really speaks to both the landscape in a kind of scientific way and also in a more spiritual way,” Hedges said.
Joswiak also said the design is appropriate because during the COVID-19 pandemic the Palouse Discovery Science Center conducted many of its educational programs outdoors so the children could learn science through nature. She said it became clear that people can learn anywhere.
The mural, itself, is an educational tool that can be seen as soon as people arrive at the center, she said.
“We want kids to pull into the parking lot and start learning instantly,” she said.
Sekaquaptewa said he used bright, primary colors to make the mural exciting to onlookers, especially since the center is surrounded by mostly gray and white buildings.
“It’s catching a lot of attention,” he said. “People are asking me about it.”
His team even solved the tricky problem of having to paint on pillars jutting out from the building.
Joswiak said the children are equally excited as her about the mural and they enjoyed watching its progress over the past two weeks.
Hedges said the mural’s design centered around appealing to the children.
“I think the mural now will serve as a dramatic and fun welcome to the center and also a celebration of the Palouse,” he said.
Kuipers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.