The Sarasota Chalk Festival is a theme-based pavement art festival from November 13th – 18th that appeals to the most sophisticated art critic as well as children of all ages. It is located in the United States of America on the west coast of Florida in a seaside city called Sarasota. The 2013 theme ‘Legacy of Valor‘ honors veterans, inspires patriotism and embraces freedom -pass it on!
The festival covers 4 blocks for 6 days in the historic Burns Square district on South Pineapple Avenue in downtown, which is where the professional and experienced street painters create their large masterpieces and 3d illusions. A Statue of Liberty, by artist Kumpa Tawornprom will grace the center of the activity. Over the weekend the festival expands another 4 blocks to Five Points Park on North Pineapple Avenue for the Veteran Artist Block, Wagner’s collaborative Art & Healing, ‘Thoughtful Reflection,’ Student Chalk and Children’s Chalk Block for the Little Chalker’s.
The festival is a benefit for the Avenida de Colores 501c3 charitable arts organization that manages the festivities among other outreach programs such as the Going Vertical program.
In addition to the festival, a curated show ‘ReImagining Sarasota Chalk Artists Art’ will be open from November 15-24 featuring the artists studio work. For the first time the public will be able to view the ephemeral work of these artists, as well as the opportunity to purchase their art that will be for sale. Featured artists such as Eduardo Relero from Spain, Leon Keer, Remko Van Shaik and Ruben Poncia from the Netherlands and Victor Puzzi from Russia will be creating 3d illusions only at this location.
The six-day cultural event celebrates the performance art form of street painting when artists use the pavement as their canvas and pastel chalk as their medium to create oversized works of art. The public are invited to participate, attend, and interact with the artists as they go about their work. “The festival is as raw as it gets to feeling and seeing an outdoor Museum in Motion as fine artists take to their hands and knees for days, recreating old master paintings, original works of art and 3D compositions right before our eyes,” states Artistic Director and Event Chair, Denise Kowal.
The festival is free for all to participate in and attend, and if you are able, please donate generously so that those less fortunate can continue to be a part of this ‘awe-inspiring’ event. The 501c3 nonprofit pays for all expenses that includes travel expenses, lodging, and supplies of artists who are approved early. Quality sustainable products are used so that while the artists may get dirty, everything else is kept clean.
The Sarasota Chalk Festival’s success relies on 4 different contributors: dedicated volunteers, generous donors, passionate artists, and enthusiastic visitors. The experience is rewarding, so why not consider joining us in spreading art, happiness, and creativity in Sarasota?
Our Theme for 2013 ‘Legacy of Valor’
Prior to the 2011 Sarasota Chalk Festival, volunteer David Taylor, suggested to Denise Kowal a theme to honor veterans. He continued to have discussions with Kowal and at the conclusion of the 2012 festival she agreed to the theme he suggested. The nonprofit was thereafter asked to be a part of the ‘Legacy of Valor‘ campaign honoring veterans, inspiring patriotism, and embracing freedom – pass it on. The campaign, which is an extension of the Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery initiative by The Patterson Foundation, consists of a mosaic of community-driven partnerships that will educate, build enthusiasm and focus the community to recognize the service and sacrifice of all veterans and their families.
The festival aims to celebrate our veterans through the beautiful artworks created by our featured artists – pavement artists – and honor them through the numerous events and activities surrounding the festival. This marks the first time a cultural arts organization of this size to honor our veterans in this manner.
History Of The Festival
Denise Kowal, President of the Burns Square Property Owners Association, founded and sponsored along with other supporters the first Avenida de Colores Burns Square Chalk Festival in November 2007 with 22 artists and 5,000 people attending. At that time the Children’s Chalk Playground, run by artist Jill Hoffman-Kowal, was the most popular area. Of the 22 participants that year, only 3 had street-painting experience; Lori Escalara, Kitty Dyble-Thompson, and Mike Kasun. These artists were all instrumental in the progress and development of the festival.
The second festival, held in May 2009, had already expanded considerably with over 75 street painters attending, many of them experienced street painters who traveled to Sarasota from all over the country. Various fringe events began to complement the street painting. There was a performance stage that featured non-stop performances by local bands, and by professional Sword Swallower, Johnny Fox. The children’s magic camp, Camp Cigma, also performed at various points throughout the festival as well as various poets, dancers, and models. The festival was beginning to really engage with the local community!
2010 was a big turning point, with the festival becoming the First International Street Painting Festival in the United States. By now it had evolved into its own 501c3 Non-Profit, and with over 250 artists in attendance it was fast becoming an important fixture in the annual events calender of Sarasota. That year, 3 artists created over-sized 3D street paintings; Street painting group, Art After Hours, created a giant 20′ x 40′ skullduggery; Tracy Lee Stum from California created an interactive ‘Mousetrap’ that measured a whopping 60′ x 30′ with a two-point perspective; and German artist, Edgar Mueller, created the first photo-luminescent street painting containing dual imagery with a massive 100′ x 40′ piece that showed a giant by day, and a fetus by night. The 2010 festival was met with such positivity that Sarasota City requested roads to remain closed after the festival to give the public a chance to view the finished works for one more day.
The 2011 festival focused on “Pavement Art Through the Ages’ and attracted a whopping 200,000 visitors to downtown Sarasota, giving the local economy a boost of $6-$10 million. With over 500 artists participating, the festival was the most important contemporary street painting venue in the World. That year saw Leon Keer and a crew from Planet Street Painting create a giant 3D chalk representation of China’s Terracotta Army with Lego. The first chalk Opera ‘set’ was created by artist Michael Kirby for Sarasota Opera to perform Madame Butterfly. Artists with Art After Hours created the first Augmented Reality street painting with hummingbirds suspended above visitors sitting within the artwork. Lectures and workshops were performed by the world-renowned innovator of 3D pavement art, Kurt Wenner. Melanie Stimmel created a mermaid sanctuary while artist Kumpa Twornprom provided live mermaids. That was also the year the festival went ‘vertical’ and invited over 25 international mural artists to decorate the walls of Sarasota City. The artworks were created with the co-operation of the artists, the city, and the owners of the properties whose walls were painted. ‘Going Vertical’ also featured the U.S. debut of a new kind of vertical art called ‘Cellograff’. This is a temporary form of mural art in which images are sprayed onto big sheets of cellophane that are wrapped between two trees or lamp posts, the result of which can be quite breathtaking.
Creating a circus was the 2012 theme, ‘Circus City, USA’ to pay tribute to the rich history Sarasota has with the circus. It was a time when trains will pull into town full of activity, drama and flair as they unloaded exotic animals, elaborate stages and flamboyant costumes. They would embrace the warm weather and practice their daring stunts on our sunny seaside town that was just beginning to become the rich cultural hub it is today. The festival featured many featured artists. Kurt Wenner created for the first time in history a several tier street painting illusion, ‘The Circus Parade’ with the assistance of experienced pavement artists Tomo Saito, Genna Panzarella, Vera Bugatti, Julie Kirk-Purcell, Luigi Legno, Melanie Stimmel, Lori Escalera, Carolyn Schultz, David Bracanto, Fabio Fedel, Valentina Sforzini, Ruben Martinez and Jenny McCracken. Sarasota’s homegrown daredevil Nik Wallenda performed at the festival on the highwire artists Anthony Cappetto and Wendy Stum created. He and his wife Erendira performed on the 60′ high sway poles that truly amazed everyone watching. hundreds of artists created artwork to enhance the theme and circus performers danced, played, and entertained the crowds. The festival brought out the child in everyone and was the Greatest Festival on Earth for ten days!
Founder: Denise Kowal
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Denise Kowal has been a steady hand in the revitalization of the Burns Square area since 1983 when she cast her lot in the area. She moved into one of her own properties in 1996 and raised her two boys downtown. “They are both environmentalists who live the urban life”, states Kowal. Her property, The Herald Square Building, was built in the 1920′s by architect Dwight Baum, and the 1950′s addition was designed by Paul Rudolph, a noted Sarasota School architect. Kowal has owned and maintained the two historic buildings for over 23 years.
The festival was a natural for Kowal who comes from a family of artists. Raised on art school campuses through her childhood, Kowal is an artist (the sidewalks around her building display some of her work) and her two sons, both artists themselves, are following their own creative outlets. Her eldest son, Austin, owns and runs Clothesline Tees, a boutique and gallery in Burn’s Square, and a major annual sponsor of the festival. Her younger son, Kenyon, works as a graphic and web designer, and is one of the leading designers for the festival each year.
Kowal is passionate about the event and focuses on its organization for much of the year. She hopes to grow the festival throughout the city, and yet is realistic about the challenges artists and arts organizations face. With her background, the saying, “starving artist,” has some truth for Kowal. However, with a large number of generous and talented volunteers (remember the artists are donating their time as well) and with the hopes of gaining more corporate sponsors, this year she is confident that the ‘Avenida de Colores’ Chalk Festival will be a definite must-see-and-experience event.
Brief History Of Chalk Art
Artistic expression is something that can be found in every culture from every point in history. Expression through creation is a fundamental part of the human existence, and is a powerful force for binding people together. Street painting and chalk art has a long and rich history and is thought to date back to 16th century Italy. Street artists there were called ‘Madonnari” and were vagabonds who traveled from festival to festival, often acting as the visual counterparts of minstrels. They made their living from coins tossed into a collection plate beside their artwork, a tradition that is continued at the chalk festival by placing containers beside the artists’ work. However, the difference here is that the money goes towards the festival’s survival, and the artist who collects the most coins receives our People’s Choice Cash Award. Traditionally, chalk drawings have a religious theme. In fact, that is where the Madonnari get their name; the word is derived from Madonna.
The traditional Madonnari traveled from town to town creating small-scale chalk drawing with limited materials. They used chalk, brick, charcoal, and colored stones as their medium, and earned a meager living. The arrival of World War II and the desolation it brought with it saw a great reduction in the number of Madonnari, and a greatly diminished number continued chalking up until the 1980′s. When the International Street Painting Festival in Grazie de Curtatone Italy started, the Madonnari finally began to get the attention and acknowledgement they deserved. It was then that their art became a worldwide phenomenon, and art students from all over Europe traveled to Italy to learn the art. In 1980, Kurt Wenner became the first American artist to join the ranks of the Madonnari and pioneered the creation of three-dimensional chalk drawings.