Working the fields: earthwork artists design WSU crop mural

Mural took about six months to design; artist has over 45 years of experience



Earthwork artist Stan Herd created the BECU crop mural outside of Pullman.

VICTORIA GIOMI, Evergreen reporter

As the Cougs roll back into Pullman for the fall semester, they will be able to see this year’s BECU crop mural etched into the side of a field by earthwork artist Stan Herd

Herd said he is responsible for the last three crop murals in Pullman. He has over 45 years of earthwork experience and has finalized about 120 projects.

“The process for getting to the art is really established by the [Seattle creative advertising] agency, DNA,” he said. “They come up with any ideas, and then they share it with us, and we engage with them.”

BECU and DNA spend about five to six months finalizing the design with Herd and his team before beginning the project, Herd said.

“They generally come up with the idea and I tell them whether I think you could equate it to work or not,”  he said. “I share with them the parameters of what’s possible with my art as it relates to their design.”

Once the designs are finalized, the physical aspect of the project begins, he said.

Herd said he and his team start off with the grid and the sketch. They then usually lay the grid out and then find the outline of the design on the field.

Once the fields were harvested and the team had gotten their supplies, they were ready to begin the mural.

“We get the crew, and I start to lay [and] gather materials and equipment and figure out the lay of the land and, you know, how much we’re going to need for everything,” he said. “They said that it took us five days, but it actually took eight days for us to create this image.”

The team uses big machines to level different areas of the field for a textured look. Then they use dark compost provided by WSU for color and dimension, Herd said. 

“[The earthwork] kind of has a shelf life,” he said. “You know it will stay there for months. When those winter snows come, they’ll cover it up a little bit, but the image will fade.”

The idea for the crop mural came to life in agreement with a deal with BECU, the WSU Alumni Association and WSU Corporate Engagement, said Alex Pietsch, Corporate Engagement executive director. 

The tradition started as a celebration of a five-year sponsorship agreement that Corporate Engagement developed with BECU in 2019, he said.

Pietsch said he is especially excited for this mural because so many students did not get to see the 2020 mural.

“I think this one’s really special,” he said. “Last year was so challenging and so many students didn’t have a chance to come back home to Pullman so this welcome home message I think is really special and will hopefully resonate with the Cougar nation.”