More than a few of the 180-plus pastel-chalk artists participating in this year's Pastels on the Plaza in Arcata started showing up by 7 a.m. under a foggy sky on Saturday, Oct. 1. The creative social event with its ephemeral art began back in 1987 as a major fundraiser for Northcoast Children's Services. NCS serves more than 1,000 children in 30 locations throughout Humboldt and Del Norte counties each year. With around 60 programs, the organization provides families with children from birth to age 5 free or low-cost comprehensive preschool and family services each year.
"This year felt like a much more normal event," said Rodney Oien, executive director of NCS. "It's great to have so many returning artists and such strong support from sponsors and business partners." Because of the pandemic, the event was canceled in 2020 and transformed into a physically distanced, two-day event in 2021. This year, artists were scheduled for morning or afternoon times to help spread them out around the plaza sidewalks. This made for an interesting viewing for attendees — by 11 a.m., several art pieces were already done, many were still in progress and several artists hadn't yet started.
Each sponsor "purchased" a sidewalk square or two and found an artist willing to create an original pastel-chalk artwork on that square. The plaza was closed to vehicle traffic and the artists were surrounded by the usual farmers market vendors on the streets. Live music played in the center of the plaza as the crowd of art lovers wandered the plaza for hours on Saturday and many others visited on Sunday to check out the very colorful but very temporary works.
Mark Larson (he/him) is a retired Cal Poly Humboldt journalism professor and active freelance photographer who likes to walk.