Parent Education Network
There’s no denying that the Parent Education Network (PEN) stages one of the most colorful community events of the fall. The organization’s fourth-annual Pastels on the Plaza will surround downtown Chico’s Plaza Park with artwork this Saturday beginning at 8 a.m.
Modeled after an event in Arcata, the event connects local businesses and individuals who pay $50 to $100 to sponsor a sidewalk square with the artists who use pastels and chalk to turn that blank concrete “canvas” into art.
PEN Public Relations Coordinator Darci Bruggman says 135 “official” artists participated last year, plus a number of “walk-up” artists who joined in on the day of the event. So while the event is only a few days off, Bruggman says it’s not too late to either sponsor a square or sign up as an artist.
“We don’t turn any artists down. We put them all to work because we really want to fill that sidewalk up. We’ll find a place for them,” she explained. “But it would be nice if they called me beforehand to make sure that all the sponsors are covered first.
“Our goal is to surround the entire downtown city plaza with artwork. We came pretty close last year—about half a block short of filling it all,” Bruggman continued.
Sponsors can supply their own artists or choose to have one of PEN’s artists do the work for them. Each sponsor’s name is incorporated in the design of its square.
No particular level of artistic skill is required to participate, and PEN supplies all the materials. “As far as the artists’ skill is concerned, we have artists ranging from school-age children to professional artists who participate,” Bruggman said.
Bruggman encourages everyone to come out and take in the colorful scenery. The Ridge Oompah Band and The Tenth Planet from Redding will provide the music. There will be lots of children’s activities, and a section of sidewalk will be set aside just for their artwork.
“There will be lots of great entertainment and beautiful artwork. Last year we had over 500 people tour it. It’s really a community event, and there’s no cost to come out and look at the art or enjoy the music,” she said.
The event’s proceeds benefit the Parent Education Network. PEN offers counseling and education through a variety of programs, all with the goal of promoting safe, nurturing families.
“It all boils down to preventing child abuse by strengthening families,” Bruggman explained.
Bruggman says the big news at PEN is the organization’s expansion into Glenn County. She said PEN hopes to find an office and hire staff for its new “Glenn PEN” location in the near future. Previously, PEN staff drove back and forth from Chico to offer parenting classes.
Another new offering from PEN’s is its Empowering Parents and Children Together (EmPACT) program. A single-parent support group based in Oroville, it’s been modeled after PEN’s Mothers and Sons program. Bruggman says the revised program promises to be “even better” because it will serve a broader audience.
Last, PEN’s talk line—530 343-TALK—is now accessible 24 hours a day. Parents can call in and talk to a trained family support worker for reassurance or referrals to other resources.
Bruggman says PEN has evolved and grown to the point where it can support families who have children from infants to teens.
“Families can stay with us for the duration if they need to, rather than bouncing from our agency out to someone else and then back again. They’re really getting a continuum of services. That’s a really good thing, because it’s what a lot of families are lacking—that stability."