Kids have been drawing on sidewalks with chalk for decades, but the childhood icon is being taken to the extreme this weekend.
Nearly 50 artists are headed for Mount Vernon’s "Chalk The Walk" festival where they’ll use a half-ton of chalk to create giant works of temporary, beautiful art on Main Street.
Craig Wilson, Mount Vernon’s director of Parks and Recreation, is organizing this year’s third annual event. They’re going to lay out a grid on the street, like a giant sheet of graph paper, and some 300 people will be able to each take a square to color in with the chalk. When it’s all done, they’ll have an enormous version of the iconic "Dogs Playing Poker" portrait.
Since the canvas is a city street and chalk is the medium, Wilson acknowledges that a good rain shower will wipe out hours of work in a matter of seconds. Even if it doesn’t rain, the street will be reopened to traffic on Sunday night. "I’ve never really thought about keeping it closed. (The art) is temporary and I think that’s part of what makes it even more special," Wilson says. "The first year we did it, you could actually see a lot of the images on Main Street for three or four weeks afterwards. Last year, things were gone within about 48 hours. It’s just the temporary nature of it that makes it more magical."
One of the best-known professional artists is Dawn Morrison Wagner, who’s flying in from California for the event. Wagner will be creating a 12-foot-by-12-foot chalk recreation of an Italian Renaissance painting. Wilson says Wagner’s been to Mount Vernon before. He says: "The first year when I picked her up and I was taking her to the airport (after the event), I hadn’t even thought about it and we’re driving down Main Street in Mount Vernon and we drove right across her piece of artwork. She was just giggling. She thought it was funny as could be and she was lifting her feet off the floor of the car. She said it was the first time she’d done that."
He says Chalk the Walk is based on an art form with its roots in 16th century Italy. It was originally done by street artists hoping to collect coins from passersby. Images were usually based on religious themes, and as the Madonna was a popular subject, the artists became known as the "Madonnari."
For more information, visit the Mount Vernon-Lisbon website at "www.visitmvl.com" and click on the "Chalk the Walk" link.