by Maranda Vargas
If you have driven through Eureka, you have probably seen at least one spectacular mural along your travels. The beyond life size artwork peeks out from historic buildings all the way to bridge pilings, overpasses, park benches and sidewalks. The Eureka Street Art Festival is a week-long event where local and international artists transform public spaces into an immersive art experience for the community.
The quaint coastal town of Eureka boasts a historic district known as Old Town that’s nestled by Humboldt Bay. Old Town is filled with Victorian era architecture and a variety of art galleries, unique shops, bookstores and a myriad of locally crafted fare. Art installations and murals have become part of the Old Town ambience since its designation as a California Cultural Arts District.
In 2017, The Black Faun Gallery commissioned two large murals to be created in Old Town. The buzz and interest in the new murals had created an opportunity for further art tourism to the area. Seeing an interest from the community, Michelle Cartledge, Swan Asbury and Jenna Catsos created the Eureka Street Art Festival the very next year.
“We saw a desire for murals in the area and we realized that this could really benefit the community,” said Catsos. “We work to make sure that everyone who passes through Eureka can see themselves in the artwork that we present in the city.”
The festival just completed its sixth year and has added at least 100 new murals to Eureka since its induction. Catsos says one of her passions is to help develop the next generation of mural artists locally, as well as artists of other media transferring their skills into becoming a mural artist. The festival website has information on how to apply to be an artist as well as an apprenticeship program.
Local artist Tony Diaz of Ripe Mind Productions has created several murals for the festival. Diaz graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in the Arts, with printmaking and graphic design being his focus at that time. It wasn’t until later that he would transform his printmaking skills into a new passion of painting murals. Diaz created his first mural for the 2019 Eureka Street Art Festival. After the first mural, his interest snowballed into a career.
The vibrant mural titled ‘Cruising for a groovin’ featured in this year’s festival was one of Diaz’ creations. Diaz invited his fiancé and younger sister to be on his painting crew for the event. The larger than life mural took the crew a week of ten-hour days to complete. Diaz as a college student was uncertain if he was going to be successful having a career as an artist.
“It’s all about putting yourself out there and just really not giving up,” Diaz said. “If you really want to do it, you’re gonna find that you can make as much money if you just take the leap, and sometimes it’s great to take the leap.”
The Eureka Street Art Festival commissions both local and international artists to create murals throughout Eureka. The mission of the project is to create accessible art while enlivening public spaces, revitalizing the community and attracting art tourism to Eureka.
The murals from this year’s festival have all been completed and are ready for your viewing pleasure. You can find pictures of past murals along with a map of all murals and the names of the artists on the Eureka Street Art Festival website.