Right now is the right time to be in Eureka.
A few years ago I was living in Portland. I had a good job in a great city but my heart was not in it. Like many that grew up here, I left for a bigger city after college. So I moved back to Humboldt County which I consider my home and I started working for the City of the Eureka. I specifically went to the city’s website and applied for two positions I thought I had a chance at, just to get my foot in the door. I wanted to help Eureka.
Three years later, I have a position that I love as an economic development planner. Among the many things that I do, I have had the privilege of working on teams that developed the Strategic Arts Plan, won Eureka a state-level Cultural District designation, and launched the Eureka Street Art Festival.
One of many goals for Eureka’s Economic Development program is to bring sunshine into dark places by replacing inappropriate uses with appropriate ones. We are consciously combating the broken window theory (if a window is broken and not repaired it’s assumed that no one cares and crime ensues) in partnership with our police department, community services department, and code enforcement division.
Opera Alley is a great example of a transformed public space. The city, along with Eureka Main Street, the Visitor’s Center, the Eureka Street Art Festival, property owners and businesses along the alley, have added twinkle lights, wheat paste exhibits, the Friday night market and close to twenty murals. It has changed the alley from a place to be avoided to an activated public space where people and families feel comfortable. There is more work to do, there is more good to come, but inch by inch we are making progress.
Right now Michelle Cartledge, Jenna Catsos and I are currently planning the 2nd Annual Eureka Street Art Festival. This year we are focusing on 6th and 7th streets, from H to C Street. As we confirm walls, artists and sponsors, there is a lot of excitement from property and business owners in this section of downtown, which doesn’t get as much attention and appreciation as Old Town.
What I have realized with these projects, is that it is not necessarily about the art, it is about the energy and life that comes with the art. It engages our citizens. Love it or hate it, you still went and looked at one of those murals or utility boxes and most likely commented on it to someone else. Art is powerful.
I still hear a lot of negative comments about Eureka when, in fact, there is so much to be grateful for. There is deep love and pride for Eureka. Good stuff is happening and more is coming. I could not be happier to be right here, right now. I see it everywhere I go — healthy, happy people working on Eureka. We are Eureka. Embrace your city, it loves you too.