“Salmon Run” artwork brings cultural history to campus

New salmon glass art will fill the walls of Terrell Library atrium; pays respect to Natives



Glass Artist Dan Friday hangs pieces of his “Schaenexw (Salmon) Run” artwork on mounts Thursday morning in the Terrell Library atrium.

Nine glass fish now adorn the walls of the Terrell Library atrium.

“They’re beautiful individually but their strength comes from the grouping, as with people,” glass artist Dan Friday said.

WSU Libraries held a reception Thursday to commemorate the piece. Nakia Williamson, director for the Nez Perce Tribe cultural research program, spoke at the event.

Todd Clark, director of IMNDN, visited WSU last spring. He chose to display the artwork in the Terrell Library atrium after looking at various buildings and central spaces on campus.

IMNDN doesn’t stand for anything, Clark said.

“But if you say it fast it says ‘I am Indian,’ so it was kind of just play on words,” he said.

His aim is to help Native artists get exposure, he said.

Clark said he previously worked with Friday. After seeing Friday’s fish, Clark decided the “Schaenexw (Salmon) Run” piece would be perfect for the space.

Friday said he was skeptical after Clark sent him the architectural renderings of where the Salmon Run piece would be mounted. There is good natural lighting in the atrium, he said.

Friday is a member of the coastal Lummi Tribe, said Williamson.

“The same salmon that swim past my house swim up these rivers,” Friday said.

Friday comes from a long family of artists and people who work with their hands, he said.

“At the time I would tell you how underprivileged we were,” Friday said. “Now I’m so grateful for that creativity that was fostered when I was really young.”

Washington’s Art in Public Places program funded the piece, according to the WSU Libraries website. The program purchases and cares for artwork in state buildings, schools and universities, according to the Washington State Arts Commission website.

“For the past few years, Washington State University has acknowledged the fact that the university is on traditional Nez Perce land,” Williamson said.

Friday said he trained as a mechanic in a vocational school. He owned a tow truck when he was 17. At age 20 he walked into a glass factory.

“I knew right then and there,” Friday said. “A big weight was lifted off my shoulders because I knew that was something I could do.”

Friday said he trained in a traditional setting with Indigenous people. He has blown glass for 25 years.

There were several iterations of the salmon, Friday said. Earlier versions had eyes and were smaller. He said the fish are hollow which allows him to make them bigger.

He could not do it alone though, Friday said. He works with as many as five assistants at a time to create fish.

“It’s a lot like being in a band,” Friday said. “We’ve all kind of got to be hitting the right notes at the right [time].”