The third annual Hudson Valley Chalk Festival returns to New Paltz Friday, July 18 through Sunday, July 20. More than 21 professional artists who specialize in creating street chalk art will travel from all around the country to work alongside 14 local talents creating eye-catching pastel works on the pavement of the upper parking lot at the Water Street Market on Main Street. Admission to the three-day event from 9:30 a.m. to dusk each day is free for spectators.
Chalk art on the street is, of course, a temporary artform, but its ephemeral qualities are part of the attraction for its makers, who enjoy the “here today, gone tomorrow” aspects of pavement painting, comparing the process to performance art and enjoying the interaction with viewers as they work.
The artform can be traced back to 16th-century Italy, where artists would travel the festival circuit with other performers to earn money and perhaps line up a commission for painting work. The tradition was revived in this country in the 1970s, and ever since there has been a growing cadre of well-respected street artists who travel the country to participate in events like the one in New Paltz. Some of the most interesting artwork created at these festivals achieves a three-dimensional effect, as if the images are breaking the visual boundaries of the street. In some cases, viewers can even insert themselves into the art and when photographed, it appears as if they’re part of the scene.
For spectators who feel inspired to try their hand at drawing on pavement, the open chalking area will have one-foot-by-one-foot squares individually marked off, and chalk supplied.
Another popular feature from last year will be back, too, said event spokesperson Amanda Lipstein: the Chalk Car. The Chalk Car? Turns out that it’s a 2004 Hyundai owned by Armonk-based artist and SUNY-Geneseo Psychology and Linguistics student Philip Romano, who decided a few years back to paint his car with chalkboard paint. He routinely parks it in prominent locations, leaves chalk on the roof and the invitation “draw on me” written on the car in chalk and leaves it unattended for people to draw on. (The car also has license plates that read “DRAWONME.”) Until it rains, or until he wants a blank slate for another location, Romano drives the car around embellished with whatever was drawn on the car in his absence.
The Hudson Valley Chalk Festival drew an estimated 4,000 attendees to its first event in 2012. Last year, more than 8,000 people came out to watch the artists at work and to enjoy the associated activities. There are puppet shows and free face-painting for kids and raffles for the adults. Live music will be provided by Nina Mars, Morning Child, Shep and the Coconuts, Me & My Ex, Vito Petroccitto, Dave Chapman and Hayne & Samuel.
The Hudson Valley Chalk Festival is also partnering with Arrive in Kenya, a nonprofit group that helps impoverished children, with the idea being to “raise awareness for street children through street art,” said Lipstein. Several of the professional artists will be chalking images of the children who are being helped by the organization, she added.
The local artists participating were chosen after the Festival Committee reviewed samples of their artwork and statements about why the person wanted to participate and what they could bring to the festival. No past chalking experience was necessary, and they’re representative of a wide range of age and artistic experience, said Lipstein; but all of the local artists do have an art background of some kind. In some cases, they were put in touch with the professional street artists to get tips and advice.
Participating local artists are Thomas Gould, Liliana Washburn, Carmen Doyon, Sara Wenger, Katie Better, Amelia Craig, Marie Saladino, Hannah Parrella, Katherine Parrella, Maya Manfred, Rebecca Hanson, Rosalind Banks and Roxanne and Greg Correll, a father/daughter team with Dad a former New Yorker magazine illustrator, said Lipstein. The participating professional artists are David Lepore, Jeanie Burns, Henry Darnell, Jay Schwartz, Janet Tombros, Julio Jimenez, Michael Las Casas, Lysa Ashley, Cheryl and Wayne Renshaw, Joel Yau, Rod Tryon, Nate and Jill Baranowski, Graham Curtis, Ann Hefferman, Sharyn Namnath, Hector Diaz and Ken Mullen and Shane Mesmer.
And what effect will weather conditions have? In the event of light rain, the artists will cover their work with tarps until showers pass. “It’s just part of the experience of dealing with the unexpected in this artform,” said Lipstein. But if it’s an out-and-out storm, the artists will move inside to local gymnasiums, and works will be done on canvas. To check on any last-minute changes, check the event’s Facebook page and website listed below.