Pastels by and for the people

By Jake Wetzstein
Flapjack Chronicle Staff

This pastel artwork advertised the HSU Children’s Center.

Artists from all over Humboldt County descended on the Arcata Plaza sidewalk. Their hands were filled with pastels to draw original art for local business in the annual Pastels on the Plaza.  That’s how the artists begin filling the sidewalk with beautiful art.

The event, complete with live music, draws people from all over Humboldt as viewers, shoppers, sponsors and artists. This year’s event took place Saturday, Oct. 6. The event is sponsored by local business and runs at the same time as the weekly farmers market.

Janet Arnot, a 22-year volunteer for Northcoast Children’s Services, helped run the pastel table with a variety of community members for the event as one of NCS’s major fundraisers. This table is where artists obtain the pastels for their art. NCS provides the pastels and mailing from part of the donations received from art sponsors, and they also photograph all the squares.

Arnot explained that the sponsors of the event are members of the community and local businesses who each purchase a square, ranging from three to six feet. The sponsor then assigns artists to draw their art on a section of sidewalk. Arnot said that everyone wins in Pastels In the Plaza.

“The artists choose where they want to draw for their inspiration, some artists even start before dawn,” Arnot said. “A few of the artists grew up participating in the event.”

Nina Bentley is one of many talented artists drawing on the plaza sidewalk. She has been doing pastels on the plaza for about seven years. While she was at Humboldt State University the child development department asked her to draw.

NCS asks local artists to draw for some local business that don’t have artists.

“I usually throw my name the a hat, that way it’s easy,” Bently said.

This time she was selected to draw for The Rocking Horse, a local children’s store in the Jacoby Store House that specializes in naturally made toys and cloths.

The Picture Bently skillfully drew of two hugging elephants was a rendition of a photograph she brought.

Portia Bramble, executive director director of the North Coast Growers Organization runs the Farmers Market portion of the events that help attract the mass of people to Pastels on the Plaza. The produce providers become members if the organization and pay a weekly fee to sell their freshest of food directly to customers from their space. There is a chronological seniority among the farmers that is used when there are not enough spots for everyone on the plaza. The sellers change seasonally and from week to week. Certain members have been participating from the beginning of the organization over 34 years ago.

Bramble said that the atmosphere completely changes during Pastels on the plaza, as frustrating as the change might be, everyone enjoys the event and it’s a nice complement. The focus is usually the art in the mornings and in the afternoons goes to the farmers. The weekly farmers market happens rain or shine.

“We’re farmers, we’re hearty,” Bramble said.

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