Tenino Creative District Moves Forward With Plans to Make Arts ‘Economically Viable’ in City


The Tenino Creative District, certified by the Washington state Arts Commission in 2020, will receive a $2,000 operating grant this year and has applied for a $13,800 capital project grant from the commission for creative district tourism signage.

The proposed project would enlist Tenino metal art creator Stew Waldrop, of Creative Iron Works, to create custom-designed metal art banners to go onto the light and electrical poles in the creative district and one metal art sign the city hopes tourists will want to have their picture taken in front of.

The project will be located on the light poles on state Route 507 and Sussex Avenue in Tenino and at the Tenino City Park on the Yelm-Rainier-Tenino Trail.

There will be 23 metal art banners in all, not including the metal art sign, which will depict scenes of the history and attractions of the Tenino area.

The project will run the entire length of the Tenino Creative District, and each art piece will be numbered so that the city can create a scavenger hunt that will have people get out of their cars to view each art piece and learn about the history of Tenino and the attractions in the area.

“We believe it will be a catalyst for future metal art, murals, sculptures and public art,” said creative district manager George Sharp in an email.

The Tenino Creative District boundaries begin at the corner of Sussex and McArthur streets and extend to the corner of Sussex and Hayden Street. The boundary includes all of Tenino City Park, Quarry House, Quarry Pool, the Tenino Depot Museum and Tenino High School.

The district is organized and operated by the City of Tenino.

“The vision of the Tenino Creative District is the creation of a vibrant pedestrian-oriented business district that respects and builds on the historic character of downtown Tenino and attracts and supports creative industries,” Sharp told The Chronicle. “The mission of the Tenino Creative District is to develop and implement a program of work that will support the vision for the district.”

Among other initiatives, the creative district’s goals for 2022 include:

• The coordination of monthly meetings of the city’s Strategic Steering Committee

• The establishment of quarterly meetings of the ARCH commission, which stands for Arts, Recreation, Culture and History

• The facilitation of work with the Washington state Arts Commission on continued development of the Creative District and the applications for grants that will help the district be successful

• The continuation of community partnerships

• The coordination of the district’s marketing

• Fundraising efforts for the implementation of creative district signage with the Washington State Department of Transportation

• The establishment of a city mural plan and program

• The conducting of an analysis of existing and potential locations for creative artisans to work and live

In 2021, the city received a $26,414 grant to pave the city-owned parking lot behind the Sandstone Café, but because of the increasing costs of construction and product delays, the district switched the grant to build a visitor and community outdoor covered space next to the Tenino Timberland Library for those who visit the Tenino Farmers Market and visitors on the Yelm-Rainier-Tenino Trail to do things like read and eat lunch in.

The district has also sponsored other efforts in the city.

“We helped administer the City of Tenino COVID Small Business Grants that many of our artisan businesses received,” Sharp said in the email.

The creative district has sponsored artisan fairs, and is currently working to help facilitate workshops on various creative projects throughout the region ranging from stone carving to culinary creations.

“The Washington state Legislature created a program called ‘Creative Districts’ in 2017, and that program is run through the Washington state Arts Commission,” Sharp told The Chronicle Friday. “When Mayor (Wayne) Fournier found out about that, he went and did … the first ordinance in the state, even before they became a certified creative district, just to say that we are going to establish a creative district. That was in 2018.”

The Washington state Arts Commission certified the Tenino Creative District in June 2020, making it the seventh certified creative district in the state.

Ultimately, Fournier wants Tenino to become a hub of the arts, he told The Chronicle.

“We’ve got the history of being creative as part of our DNA,” Fournier said, referencing the city’s stone-carving legacy. “We’ve got a lot of people here with a lot of talent. And we’re definitely wanting to support that. Artful communities are healthy communities. They’re more lively. They’re more economically viable and vibrant.”

For more information about the Tenino Creative District visit https://www.arts.wa.gov/creative-districts/, https://www.arts.wa.gov/creative-district-communities or https://www.arts.wa.gov/tenino/.