The Water Street Market is bringing in world-class chalk artists for its first annual three-day Chalk Art Festival, slated for July 20 through 22. While chalk festivals have grown in popularity worldwide, like many other “temporary art” media — ice sculpture, sandcastle-building, finger painting — these festivals are typically found in larger cities like Sarasota, Denver or Salt Lake City. But New Paltz has always been a larger-than-life small town, and Water Street Market is flying in professional artists from all over the country to create a “Chalk Walk” throughout its outdoor walkway and courtyard from morning till dusk.
“My boss [Harry Lipstein] travels a lot, and has been to several of the big chalk festivals like the one in Sarasota,” said Theresa Fall, the director of Community Events and Programs at Water Street. “He also met the guy that organizes the chalk festivals, and he said he’d be willing to help us organize one — which he has, and we’re thrilled.”
According to Fall, the festival will feature a dozen professional chalk artists. The Water Street Market, with the help of donations and sponsorships, is paying for the artists’ airfare and lodging. “We also have 11 local artists, who are being sponsored by different businesses and individuals,” two of whom include Ryan Cronin and Cat Capalino, according to Fall.
And then there will be an “open chalk area,” where kids and adults can try their hands at some old-fashioned chalk-art fun after being inspired by the creations around them. “We have it all mapped out, so that visitors can walk around the chalk art and watch the artists work, talk to them, ask them questions. That’s what makes this particular type of art so fun. You can literally watch them create something from nothing and the end result, from the images I’ve seen, are out of this world.”
A few of the professional chalk artists will be doing 3-D pieces, and one couple is doing a Shawangunk Ridge-themed chalk image that will focus on rock climbing. “It’s a different medium for many of our local artists, so they can start small with a four-by-six-foot area or go to an eight-by-12-foot,” she said.
The artists will begin their designs on Friday afternoon, and then work from 10 a.m. until dusk on Saturday and Sunday. According to Fall, there will also be face-painting at the Chalk Festival, and live music all three days, including Yard Sale, a local bluegrass band, El Front, a funk and reggae band from Kingston, and many more. “What’s amazing is that all of the musicians have donated their performances for the festival,” she said. “This is a big thing to pull off, but our hope is that it’s going to be an annual event. We’re excited to bring an art festival like this to New Paltz that is free to the community, bolsters artists and art enthusiasts and brings people to our amazing town.”
In an effort to offset the costs of the free event, organizers are looking for local businesses, restaurants and service providers to give them gift certificates or other prizes for the raffle that they’ll be holding during the festival. “We still need volunteers to help with parking and to ensure that the artists have water and food while they work, selling tee-shirts, and to just keep things flowing smoothly,” said Fall.
While Fall has worked to bring a summer film series, a summer music series, chili contests and much more to the Water Street Market free of charge for the community, this is the biggest event yet. “It’s daunting, but in a great way. I know that once people see the amazing chalk art, meet the artists, walk around as the art is being created with live music playing, they’re going to love it.”
To contact Fall about donations, sponsorships (where your business would be listed and posted next to the artist) or to volunteer, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.