CWU News

CWU Alumna Tanya Pierson Creates Dog Park Art

One might say Central Washington University alumna Tanya Pierson has left her mark on Ellensburg.

Pierson, who has had a passion for art since she was a child, created the three wire and cement dog statues that now grace the new Rotary Park dog park. The sculptures, which were made using a welded iron frame that was wrapped in polystyrene foam and covered with wire and cement, depict canines in various natural poses. Each has an actual dog tag with a name.

“The one lifting its leg is Randall, named after Randall Hall, where it spent the first four years of its life. The pooping one is Precious, after my dog, Ava, which was her original name before I changed it. The running one is named Zen after my dog, who inspired these sculptures,” she explained.

Pierson said the process of designing, creating and installing the artwork took more than four years. When she embarked on the journey, she was a student in art professor Gregg Schlanger’s class. He assigned the class the task of filling out a grant application for a creative research project. As part of the exercise, he let the individual students decide whether to actually send in their completed grant applications.

She said she decided to submit the application and, to her surprise, her proposal was accepted. At the time, Ellensburg was in the process of building an off-leash dog park and it just so happened that Pierson not only loves dogs but had a whimsical idea for artwork for the park.

The proposal, funded by the Birkin Owart Fund, first had to be endorsed by the Ellensburg Art Commission, then by the city parks department, and finally, by the Ellensburg City Council in several televised meetings. During the latter hearings, she had to explain how the sculptures were built safely and were meant to reflect the fun, play nature of the new dog park.

Normally a bit shy, Pierson said the process was a big triumph for someone like her who generally dislikes public speaking or being in the spotlight. She said the confidence she gained as a result of those public meetings helped her to later give an artist talk at Soap Lake about her sculptures.

In October of last year, the park was completed and at the grand opening, Pierson was given public acknowledgement for her sculptures.

Pierson, who received her BA of Fine Arts in studio art from CWU in 2012, said she originally started out as a painter.

“I hadn’t done any sculptures really until I came to Central,” she said. “I took a sculpture class with [CWU art instructor] Howard Barlow and it really opened up a new world.”

As a studio artist, Pierson said she enjoys working in many different kinds of mediums, although her best work are oil paintings and sculpture. Currently, she said she does much of her art creation from the comfort of her home, usually in front of a television. But, she acknowledged, having a studio would be preferable.

“When I was living in Ephrata, I had an actual studio that I would go to and work, but right now it’s [her studio] at home,” she said.

As for new projects, Pierson said she recently donated a pet portrait to the Thorp Mill auction and has done some of the art that is featured in local restaurants. Her latest project is a commissioned oil painting of a dog for a local owner.

She said she sees painting dog portraits as a potentially lucrative side business and, perhaps, a sign that her career has truly gone to the dogs—but in a good way.

Media contacts: Derek Forsell, Content Intern, or Richard Moreno, Director of Content Development, 509-963-2714,