Garbage Goat – Spokane, Washington - Atlas Obscura

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Garbage Goat

Riverfront Park

This inanimate goat created by the "welding nun" has been helping to clean up the city of Spokane for more than 40 years. 


Most cities simply tell their populace not to litter, but in one Spokane park, the city tried to make it fun—by installing a statue of a garbage-eating goat. 

The goat is crafted from pieces of copper and brass. Since its placement in 1974 as part of the World’s Fair that year, the uniquely interactive goat statue has been a local landmark. The metal goat sculpture has a vacuum inside that allows the goat to “eat” small pieces of garbage. The statue will inhale just about any piece of refuse that will fit into its mouth. (The whimsy of the statue was lost on some critics, such as the group of dairy farmers who took offense to the implication that a dairy goat would eat trash.)

The statue was the work of Sister Paula Mary Turnbull, who became famous in Spokane and beyond as the “welding nun.” While living at the Convent of the Sisters of Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Sister Paula spent more than eight decades creating, teaching, and sharing art. She created her signature metal sculptures from a welding studio on the convent’s grounds. According to Tom Keefe, a friend of Sister Paula and founder of the Friends of the Goat Association, the nun was inspired to create the Garbage Goat after visiting a zoo where the trash cans had lids shaped like animal heads. She took it one step further and built the entire animal.

At a 40th anniversary party for the Garbage Goat in 2014, the Parks Department shared that it had consumed 14,480 yards of litter and other “stuff” over its four decades in Riverfront Park. Sister Paula, then 93 years old, attended the celebration and fed the goat a slice of birthday cake.

Sister Paula passed away in 2018, but her legacy lives on through her artwork. In addition to the Garbage Goat, a number of Sister Paula’s sculptures still stand around Spokane–there’s a metal sasquatch at the local community college, a bear at a local high school, and a number of other pieces at various churches and schools. 

Know Before You Go

The goat sits pristinely within a manmade rock formation about 50 feet east of the carousel.

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