The effort to enliven and beautify Eureka's public spaces took another leap forward this month, as a dozen mostly local artists took to the streets to transform placid, plain walls along the U.S. 101 corridor, imbuing them with color and meaning.
Through its first three years, the annual Eureka Street Art Festival saw more than 30 murals painted in Eureka's Old Town, Downtown and Henderson Center areas. This year, artists added 11 more along the city's main artery, which sees more than 30,000 vehicle trips a day, with a theme of "wayfinding."
The murals range from fun and whimsical to deeply meaningful, with a pair of works that offer acknowledgement to dark periods in the city's past — acknowledgement that would have seemed impossible until recently.
- Jonathan Webster
First, in the newly christened Chinatown Alley near Fifth and E streets, the Eureka Chinatown Project oversaw the installation of a large mural that plays the festival's theme by proclaiming the area "Historic Chinatown," while also paying homage to the city's forced expulsion of Chinese residents in 1885 under threat of mob violence. Entitled "Fowl," the mural by Oakland artist Dave Kim features a mandarin duck, a Chinese symbol of love and fidelity, over a cityscape of historic Chinatown. And in the left corner is a portrait of Ben Chin, who in 1954 moved to Eureka to open a restaurant and is believed to be the first person of Chinese descent to reside in the city since the expulsion.
A few blocks over, on an exterior wall of the Clarke Museum in Opera Alley, Yurok artist Alme Allen led a team working to restore a mural inspired by renowned Karuk elder Brian Tripp's poem, "The Sun Set Twice on the People that Day," commemorating the Wiyot massacre on Tuluwat Island in 1860. The mural, which is inspired by a poem of Tripp's by the same name, was originally installed on the side of the Eureka Theater but was removed some years a few years ago and had been in storage before Allen and a group of artists restored it at its new home for the festival.
Other installations this year include a huge map of the city at the corner of Fifth and E streets and a large abstract on the south face of the Humboldt County Courthouse. As artists worked over the course of a week to push forward the festival's goal of revitalization through beautification, local photographer Alexander Woodard was there to capture their progress and their finished products. Check out a selection of his photos here, find more online and get more information about the annual festival and participating artists at www.eurekastreetartfestival.com.