Within just 24 hours of his passing on Oct. 27, condolences came pouring in to the family of Nat Fast, relating how much the iconic local artist meant to the community and each person he knew.
“It has been amazing to feel the outpouring of love for Dad,” Marti Fast, Nat’s daughter, told the Sun. “It is just beyond anything that we could really take in.”
Nat passed away peacefully while in the presence of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, Marti explained.
Born on Aug. 10, 1924, Nat was 89 years old when he died, leaving a legacy captured in art pieces and exhibits, as well as the students and community organizations he touched.
“His relationships and … his connection with other people around him—all of that was very important,” Marti said. “I think on many levels his life was a creative act all the time.”
Nat’s love of art began in childhood with drawing. He received his bachelor’s degree in art from San Jose State University in 1951 after serving during World War II aboard the U.S.S. Enoree in the Pacific Theater. He returned to the military via the U.S. Army after receiving his degree and began his lifelong career of teaching.
He taught art on the Central Coast for 57 uninterrupted years, beginning at Santa Maria High School in 1955 and teaching for decades at Allan Hancock College. He formally retired from Hancock last year.
Fast was also one of the founding members—and longest active member—of the Santa Maria Arts Council. He was responsible for setting up the scholarship program for the council, which has awarded more than a quarter of a million dollars to local emerging artists (this writer included).
Nat was also involved in the early days of PCPA Theaterfest, even before the conservatory officially formed. He helped design sets, acted, organized, and drew or painted the posters for the productions.
“They used to joke and say it was the salad days of the college because it was new and there were these really young and energetic artists and actors on the staff,” Marti said. “He was part of the movement that kind of gave birth to the fantastic art department, dance department, and PCPA that we enjoy today.”
Nat also became a regular fixture at PCPA dress rehearsals, where he would sketch the rehearsing actors. He donated many of his pieces to be auctioned for the PCPA Foundation, Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum, and other local organizations. Generosity was definitely second nature to him.
“In terms of friends, the life he built, and the life he gave, he was the wealthiest man I have ever known,” Marti said of her father. “The arts, at its best, it’s about loving one another, and he did that. He really got that and gave generously of that.”
The gift that touched so many was Nat’s commitment to and passion for education. People who attended his weekly art meetings at Café Noir, saw him at a local art event, or took one of his classes saw the joy Nat felt when seeing others engaged in creativity.
“I have found so much satisfaction in both the study of art, such as art history, and in producing works, and I felt it was important to pass it on to others,” Nat said in a July interview with the Sun. “I think that is an obligation that we all have: to pass on the things we love to the next generations.”
Nat’s résumé filled pages, with several reserved just for the awards and recognitions he received. A longtime winner of the Sun’s annual Best of Northern Santa Barbara County Readers’ Poll in the Best Local Artist category, his influence in the local community was far-reaching.
“Life is wonderful, so I find inspiration in all sorts of places,” he said earlier this year. “I find it in my kids, my grandkids, the people I know, and just watching the seasons change and seeing the beauty of nature that exists when we let it be there.”