Olympia Salmon Run

Zurich and Chicago have had their cows, Seattle had pigs and Olympia has salmon!

This public art project is currently on exhibition at The Olympia Center (222 Columbia ST NW), promoting dialogue about the importance of salmon to our community. Salmon is a serious issue in the Northwest: our heritage and our children's inheritance. These ten fish, created by local artists, represent our hopes and concerns for this important resource.

Wishupona Fish

  • Artists: Stephanie Lee Fraher with No Limits - Olympia members Carolyn Cox, Ashley Shomo and Pat Starzyk
  • Materials: Pennies, copper sheeting and acrylic paint

Pennies for this project were collected from the public. In exchange for the penny, the donor was entitled to write down their thoughts, stories or hopes in the form of "wishes" for native salmon, or other subject, which were then sealed inside the salmon form. The process helped stimulate dialog about salmon, its importance to the region and what individuals can do to make a difference.

Struggle to Survive

  • Artists: Michelle Williams with the Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission Artist Team/Salmon Recovery Program that included Thuy Luu-Beams, Billie-Gwen Russell and Paul Stasch
  • Materials: Vintage salmon packing labels, canning lids, reflective marine tape, paint, fabricated fishing gear, abalone and onyx

This representation of the salmon's struggle to survive extinction and the commercial salmon fishing industry uses reproductions of rare and authentic salmon packing labels found in old cannery packing houses. The inspiration for the design came from the artists' professional commitment to salmon recovery as well as their personal experiences as fishers who enjoy the beauty of outdoors and heritage of Washington salmon.

Souls of Extinction

  • Artists: David (Mollari) Sederberg with the Procession of the Species Celebration, Including Eli Sterling and Heather Taylor-Zimmerman
  • Materials: Catalyzed acrylic urethane

The extinct species painted on this salmon are intended to remind the viewer of the plight of the salmon and the connection of all life on earth, past and present. It is the artists' hope that we will become more responsible for our actions that affect the species with which we share this planet and remember that no species is exempt from the possibility of extinction.


  • Artist: Lucy Gentry
  • Materials: Mixed media with handmade mulberry and joss paper, tea dyes, stain and acrylic paint

To honor the salmon in their remarkable journey, the fish body has been covered with scales laminated with gold and silver joss paper, which is burned ceremonially at Chinese funerals. Salmon recipes, collected from the community, are combined with the joss paper in layers similar to fish scales. They honor the birth and death of salmon and thank it for providing such delicious nourishment and, in effect, give funeral rites to the fish.

Blueback Beads in a Roe

  • Artists: Maureen "MoreRain" Nelson with the Traditional Artists Guild
  • Materials: 30,000 crow and roller beads

The Traditional Artists Guild chose to honor the Blueback, the indigenous sockeye of Lake Quinault. Colored beads were applied to the form to give the illusion of the spawning colors of the Blueback's skin. The artist's goal is to address ideas, needs and values that can be found throughout all time and places; to find similarities within the differences, which is where dialogue begins.


  • Artsits: Kristine Sogn with Margaret McKenny Elementary School Students
  • Materials: Paper and acrylic paint

With the body of the salmon as land, and the fins, head and tail as large water bodies, this colorful mosaic design illustrates salmon habitat as a finite habitat shared with many other species including humans. The 150 students who worked on this project were 3rd and 4th graders. They researched, brainstormed, coordinated ideas and created the habitat renderings using colored paper cuttings with the assistance of teachers and parent helpers.

Salmon Boy Rides the Watershed

  • Artists: Paul J. & Carolyn C. Wagner, Coquina Creations Studio
  • Materials: Automotive paint, fabric and hardwood (cherry and walnut)

The wellbeing of salmon, people and the watershed are all interconnected. The design interprets this interconnection, first with a mosaic of fabric shapes creating waves of color. These colors represent all of the elements of the watershed. Traditional northwest native cultures speak of the fall salmon runs as the return of the spirits of the "salmon people" who have been on a long journey. The carved human figure riding on the back of the salmon symbolizes that our future is dependent on a healthy watershed.

The Interconnected Connection

  • Artists: Sherry Buckner with Tumwater High School Students
  • Materials: Paint and stoneware tile

Woven patterns of color and reflective glaze on the tiles work to simulate the refracted light that we see when watching salmon swim upstream in shallow water. Students designed symbols of elements in nature that create a healthy environment for salmon to live. The elements are only noticed at a closer viewing, communicating the complexity and interrelated nature of salmon survival.

The Lucky One

  • Artist: Nikki McClure
  • Materials: Automotive paint and vinyl

The odds for a salmon to return to its place of birth to spawn is approximately 1 in 1750. Those odds are graphically portrayed on this salmon form, where 1749 smolt, based on papercut designs, are represented as a flowing stream of salmon swimming in one giant school toward the ocean. The one salmon that will survive the return back up stream is in red.

People of the Water

  • Artist: Andrea Marie Wilbur-Sigo
  • Materials: Acrylic paint

This Coast Salish design is inspired by the legend, "People of the Water", which tells the story of the descendants of the maritime people, now known as the Squaxin Island tribe, who lived and prospered along these shores for untold centuries. This story is told through traditional images of seal, seagull and octopus, transforming into human, man and women.