“Ocean Love” bench by artist Yannis Stefanakis

Eureka has been bringing it hard art-wise in the last year, with projects like the utility box art program and the Eureka Street Art Festival. It seems that the City of Eureka is continuing to step up its game, with yet another public art project in the works: interactive art benches along the Eureka Waterfront Trail.

The project consists of eight unique benches, or interactive art pieces, at different locations along the trail, crafted by local artists. Each piece is accompanied by an interpretive panel and is meant to highlight a different facet of Eureka’s history.

“The People’s Return” by Alme Allen on the Waterfront Trail

Local artist Alme Allen began his instillation in March. The work entitled “The People’s Return,” is located on the northern part of the trail between the Samoa Bridge and the Blue Ox Mill on X Street. The piece features a spiral design painted on the asphalt and five concrete stools — recreations of stools traditionally carved from redwood and used by native tribes.

The placement of the installation offers a view of Tuluwat Island — also known as Indian Island — the sight of the massacre of Wiyot people in 1860. Allen’s work is accompanied by a plaque with which provides some history and information of the Wiyot culture.

Allen told the Outpost he was pleased to have this opportunity to place a fusion of traditional and contemporary art in a natural setting and to reclaim the space to celebrate native people.  The stools are a different and more communal interpretation of the bench idea, providing a place for people to rest and talk or contemplate the views.

“It connects people with the land,” Allen said. “I think it’s a good thing to get the community connected with places and nature.”

Other local artists include Yannis Stefanakis, who created an aquatic themed bench near the Wharfinger Building, as well as some sculptures in the Del Norte Street Pier Park and Diego Harris, who did a “steam engine” themed piece behind Target. There is also an earthquake themed bench, a timber history themed piece, as well as one celebrating the Kinetic Grand Championship.

Eureka Deputy Community Services Director Donna Wood told the Outpost that the bench inspiration came from a desire to celebrate the completion of the Waterfront Trail and hopefully encourage even more trail use.

“[I] realized it’s going to unfold all these beautiful views people didn’t have access to before,” Wood told the Outpost. She is hoping that the benches will provide nice spots for people to stop and enjoy the views of the area.

Map from the Arts and Culture Festival brochure

The project came about when the City of Eureka and non-profit group the Ink People were awarded a $90,000 grant from the California Arts Council as part of Creative California Communities, a project aimed to support collaborative community projects that harness arts and culture.

With that grant money the Eureka Arts and Culture Commission and the Ink People were able to pay artists for this project, create and install information panels and put together a celebration of the benches and the Waterfront Trail for the community.

The celebration, called The Eureka Arts and Culture Festival,  will be held this Saturday in Eureka’s Halvorsen Park from noon to 8:30 p.m. The festival will include live music, live art, speeder (tiny train) rides provided by the Timber Heritage Association and more.

Some of the artists, including Allen, will also be giving talks about their work.

You can find more information on the Eureka Arts and Culture Festival blog.