Art  under foot

Art under foot

Annual Pasadena Chalk Festival lets artists color our world

By Carl Kozlowski 06/12/2013

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For more than two decades, the Pasadena Chalk Festival has been decorating the sidewalks of the Crown City with a royal tapestry of vibrant colors, with hundreds of artists arriving annually to draw elaborate works across the plaza of the Paseo Colorado mall and on the concourse of the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. And every year, it keeps getting bigger and more popular.  

“We are full for the festival, filled up faster this year,” says Patricia Hurley, co-director of the Light Bringer Project, the arts collective that produces the event. “We have over 500 artists and 200 mural spaces. Every year we fill every nook and cranny of the space we have.  We want enough space for people to walk through the murals, and for artists to wiggle around the murals. Most murals are 8-by-8 feet, and the ones by the Civic Auditorium are bigger.”

Aside from making more than 100,000 attendees ooh and ahh in admiration over their impromptu masterpieces, the artists involved in the PCF have a shot at some pretty impressive prizes. While there is a Peoples Choice Award voted on by observers, the top awards in 10 categories are voted on by the artists themselves and result in gift certificates to top area restaurants, with the top three teams overall winning gift certificates providing them with free flights anywhere Jet Blue airline travels.

“People can show up Sunday, get a ballot in their restaurants and stores and have a say for their favorites,” says Hurley. “Artist awards are voted by artists themselves. It gets them to get up and look at others’ work, because before you know it it’s gone. They’re really the best people to judge.”

Beyond that, further excitement stems from the event’s art auction, which gives attendees the chance to purchase unique canvas-based artworks by the participants. Held in front of the Paseo’s Arclight movie theater, which also hosts the Chalk of Fame upon which portraits of such Hollywood luminaries as Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe annually appear, the event raises money for Light Bringer to keep growing the festival to greater scope.

“The idea of the auction started when we used to be at City Hall,” recalls Hurley. “People would see the art on the ground and wonder what the artists would do on a canvas.  We got a generous donation from Blix [art supply store] and then handed them out to artists. They paint for a month before, we auction it off and the money goes to LBP. The affordable art is really fun and some people have been collecting for years and hang it all over their house.”

Started in 1993, the PCF honors the art of street painting, a tradition which dates back to 16th-century Italy and was the main source of income for many traveling artists after World War II. That renewed burst of visibility has resulted in the creation of festivals across North and South America and Europe. The PCF not only spotlights the art, but also helps arts programs throughout the Pasadena public schools.

 “The variety is what makes the fest so amazing,” says Hurley. “There are a few themed areas, but mostly artists draw whatever they want, what strikes them, and they really take a long time to get it right. There are inspirational murals of people who passed on and murals with messages of love, politics and causes important to them. There are funny imaginative designs, humorous murals, recreations of masterpieces and some that go after a 3D effect whether it’s a drawing looking like it’s popping out of the ground.  But most of all, it’s a lot of fun.” 

The Pasadena Chalk Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Paseo Colorado, 280 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Admission is free. Visit pasadenachalkfestival.com or call (626) 590-1134.

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