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Chalk Festival's global buzz gets louder every year

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Chalk Fest 2010. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune staff photo by Thomas Bender)

Asphalt is about ready to get owned, from Pineapple to Palm Avenues, all around Burns Square and along downtown Sarasota's  side streets.

The Chalk Festival will return on Tuesday, bringing with it a hundred of thousand spectators and a local economic boom. What started as the fledgling “Avenida de Colores” back in 2007 -- as a tribute to the age-old “I Madonnair” (Italian street painters) -- has evolved worldwide sensation.

“We really do have the most renowned artists in the world attending in one location for the first time ever in history. That’s quite noteworthy, not only for Sarasota but internationally,” said fest founder Denise Kowal. “The artists that are here from the Netherlands and Italy are talking about how everybody all over the world is talking about Sarasota right now.”

Chalk Festival 2010. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune staff photo by Thomas Bender)

They’re discussing how an estimated 80,000 spectators flocked to the event last year, and how it generated about $3-million in revenue for Sarasota County, Kowal said. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend this time, including 250 renowned artists and hundreds of volunteers. Area hotels are already racking up reservations and restaurants are prepping for mile-long lines.

The main exhibition will be centered in Burns Square, and lectures and demonstrations about street painting will be held throughout the week. A new vertical art component has been added to the roster, which will allow artists to beautify walls at pre-approved properties. The Sarasota Opera will perform one-hour excerpts of “Madama Butterfly” on a set created by artist Michael Kirby, and children can create mini masterpieces along Oak Street.

There will be a recreation of the first street painting festival in the world, the Grazie di Curtatone, which began in Mantua, Italy, in 1973. More than 20 Italian artists are traveling to Sarasota to participate, and they will work for 24 hours straight in compliance with the competition’s strict rules.

Chalk painting by Kurt Wenner. (Provided by Sarasota Chalk Festival)

And, of course, American artist Kurt Wenner will be one the festival’s top honored celebrities. Wenner is regarded as the innovator of 3-D pavement art, having devised a unique type of geometry (often called “anamorphic” or “illusionistic”) that enables him to bring illusions to the horizontal surface of the street. He will teach his techniques at 529 Clothesline Gallery and Ringling College of Art and Design.

“The Chalk Festival has brought an art form to Sarasota that has never been experienced before,” Kowal said. “It’s important for us to continue to be on the cutting edge.”

Come November, our pavement is sure to be a whole lot prettier.

Sarasota Chalk Festival
Tues. Nov. 1 to Mon. Nov. 7
various venues
954-1818; chalkfestival.com


Last modified: November 7, 2011
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