Picassos on pavement: Hudson Valley Chalk Festival in New Paltz

(Photo by Theresa Fall)

(Photo by Theresa Fall)

A repeat performance is called for with the success of last year’s inaugural Hudson Valley Chalk Festival at the Water Street Market in New Paltz, when professional chalk artists from all over the country joined local talent in creating beautiful, ephemeral art on the street and more than 4,000 spectators turned out to watch them at work and enjoy the results.

The Water Street Market will welcome this year’s Hudson Valley Chalk Festival Friday through Sunday, July 12 to 14. Admission is free for viewers. Along with the amazing chalk art, the event this time will expand to include performances by local bands, free face-painting for kids, raffles and an open chalking area for anyone who feels inspired.

Chalk art is, of course, a temporary artform, but its ephemeral qualities are part of the attraction for its makers, who don’t get overly invested in what they’ve created but instead enjoy the process. For an intriguing look at what one can expect to see at the Hudson Valley Chalk Festival, visit the website at www.hudsonvalleychalkfestival.com, where there are photographs from last year’s show and statements by several of the artists as to why they do what they do. The artwork is terrific; some of it is illusory, giving the viewer a fun experience of seeing something dimensional breaking the visual boundaries of the street.


And view the video by Craig Houdeshell on the site, in which chalk artists answer the question, “Why do you do it?” Some of them are professional chalk artists, used to working on the street, while others are studio painters trying their hand at working outside and in large format (the artists work in ten-by-18-foot spaces), enjoying the challenges of tackling a medium new to them. Several of the artists say that they enjoy the camaraderie with the other artists, and with the crowd, likening the process to a spontaneous street performance of sorts.

For this writer, it brings to mind the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of creating intricate sand mandalas that are then ceremonially destroyed, reinforcing the Buddhist belief in the transitory nature of material life. The approach of a street artist may be more whimsical, but there’s a similar spirit at work here: a person who can devote him- or herself to the creation of something and then detach his or her ego from it, letting it go and moving on to create something else another day.

And one might consider what chalk artist Ann Hefferman has to say about the matter: “Although it is an ephemeral artform to be experienced and observed during the creative process,” she says, “each piece yields a lasting impression.”

Hudson Valley Chalk Festival, Friday-Sunday, July 12-14, free, Water Street Market, 10 Main Street, New Paltz; www.hudsonvalleychalkfestival.com.