As any child knows, there are few art forms more ephemeral than scratching out a picture with a handful of powdery chalk on a sidewalk or handy wall. That dusty masterpiece survives at the whims of wind and rain, pounding feet and grinding car tires. It’s a testament to the pure joy of creation, freed from permanence and stability, more akin to performance than painting.
That sense of immediacy is also what makes the annual Sarasota Chalk Fest such a popular event, bringing well over 100,000 visitors to downtown Sarasota to view art that will disappear from concrete canvas after a mere few days. It gives art lovers an avenue to exclusivity that rivals the ability to hang a one-of-a-kind piece on their walls, as attending makes them among the privileged few to have seen these creations before they are washed away forever.
There’s also pleasure to be had in seeing the process unfold, in being able to track works of art from bare canvas to completed vision. In a scant few days, hundreds of accomplished chalk artists from around the world (and plenty from our neck of the woods) will work 12 hours a day to create masterpieces ranging from illusory three-dimensional cityscapes that can fool viewers with perspective and depth to two-dimensional chalk paintings that could hang in galleries and museums, were they to survive the end of the festival.
But perhaps the most attractive part of the Chalk Festival is the opportunity for attendees to recapture some of that youthful drive that can come to anyone faced with a block of sidewalk and a box of chalk. Instead of dryly watching creation, you can get your hands dirty, scratching a personal work of art for all to see.
If that’s too much commitment for you, you can channel your creativity into the Chalk Fest’s new Chalk Cubes – six large boards scattered throughout the area that pose a question to be answered however you wish, with plenty of chalk to make your anonymous response come to life.
This year’s Chalk Fest also introduces another venue away from Burns Court, the new Ice House on 10th, which will feature studio work and interactive installations created by some of the attending artists. There will also be a focus on military veterans, part of the “Legacy of Valor” campaign that has permeated the area in recent weeks.
Best of all, participating in the Chalk Fest’s few concentrated days of artistic creation is mostly free, other than a couple of parties and exhibits. Just make sure to catch it before it all ends on Monday, because this explosion of artistic expression is a strictly limited-time offer.
SARASOTA CHALK FESTIVAL
Today-Monday (Today-Nov. 25 for Ice House exhibit)
Events take place in Burns Court in downtown Sarasota, except where indicated.
3D Pavement Art
8 a.m.-10 p.m. Today-Monday, Burns Court
The biggest draw of the Fest are these tricky manipulations of perspective and depth that fool your eye into seeing more than a flat surface. A featured installation by California artists Tracy Lee Sturm will be the centerpiece.
3D Pavement Art and Re-Imaginig Chalk Artists
Noon-8 p.m. Monday-Nov. 25; $10; Ice House on 10th, 1314 10th St., Sarasota
Studio and interactive pieces from Chalk Fest artists will be on display at the new Ice House on 10th exhibit space, including 3D pavement art installations from Leon Keer, Victorio Puzzini, Remkno van Shaik, Eduardo Relero and Ruben Poncia. You will also have the opportunity to purchase works by the attending artists.
6-9 p.m. Today; $100; Ice House on 10th, 1314 10th St., Sarasota
Have an opportunity to meet the artists and purchase their work while enjoying food, drink and live music.
Street Painting Workshop
10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Today; $150; Ice House on 10th, 1314 10th St., Sarasota
A full-day workshop about the technique, etiquette and style of modern street painting for amateur Military veteran artists, but others are welcome to attend.
8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Monday; Burns Court
See hundreds of artists work on their own 12’ x 12’ canvas in Burns Court.
Military Veteran Artists
8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; Burns Court
After participating in a day-long tutorial on pavement art and shadowing one of the visiting artists, military veterans will have a chance to create their own works of art on Saturday and Sunday.
Art & Healing
7 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; Burns Court
Drawing on Earth will be creating a large ceremonial chalk drawing that veterans and the community can walk on to help complete the veterans’ journey home. Paper will be supplied to draw and write prayers to burn in a small fire as a give away.
Student Chalk Block
8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; Burns Court
This year participating students will be treated to a free class by professional street painter, Lorelle Miller, on Thursday from 2-5:30 p.m. All their supplies will be provided and all they need to do is show up and create!
Children’s Chalk Block
8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; Burns Court
It is free for the young and young at heart to participate and attend, and chalk – the same chalk provided the professionals. Other featured events for the children and families will include puppets, magic, face painting, appearance by Snowflake the Elephant, yoga, dance, music and more. Amenities will be available and including beverages and food stands.
8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
A minimalist exhibition inspired by Fest founder Denise Kowal’s trip to the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.
4:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday; Burns Court
Speakers from the Sarasota County Veterans Commission, Sarasota National Cemetery, the Patterson Foundation, and the Chalk Festival, along with a color guard and music by the Sarasota Military Academy.
5:30-11 p.m. Saturday; $10 (free for veterans and their families); Burns Court
A Thanksgiving dinner, dance and USO-style show emceed by Les McCurdy with music by the Sarasota Jazz Project.
Awards Ceremony & Party
8-11 p.m. Sunday; $50; Ice House on 10th, 1314 10th St., Sarasota
Food, drink and music at this closing finale to the fest.