There’s street art, then there is actual art on the street.
Chalk painting takes it to the asphalt, with one of the largest free festivals in the country happening in Lake Worth in February. Started in 1994 by a small group of Lake Worth residents led by Erin Allen and Maryanne Webber, the Street Painting Festival has grown, attracting over 100,000 people. Modeled after I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival in Santa Barbara, California, the unique art of street painting that has been attracting onlookers that would gather to watch as itinerant artists create masterworks on the cobblestones, which must have been more challenging than smooth pavement.
Now in its third decade, the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival has more than 600 artists on the pavement, live music on the mainstage, restaurants, shops, festival food court and a bistro.
Best of all, it’s all free! (Watch highlights of the festival in 2019)
For over 20 years Executive Director Maryanne Webber has served with passion and dedication as a volunteer chairperson and artist coordinator on the Street Painting Festival committee. In business in downtown Lake Worth for nearly 30 years, she closed her retail gallery in September 2014. She now serves as Executive Director of the Street Painting Festival alongside Nadine Burns, Event Producer, and Coordinator. Nadine is a former Lake Worth City Commissioner who served two terms and was event coordinator for the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce.
Viewers can watch as the hundreds of artists converge, using chalk as their brush and the pavement as canvas, turning the downtown streets of Lake Worth into a temporary art gallery, with a diverse variety of large scale traditional, contemporary and 3D illusion paintings on the street.
“This is a very unique form of art for several reasons,” says artist Hector Diaz. “One of which the ephemeral nature of the art and that even though you can experience it through photographs, to really experience it you can only do so in person and it is only there until the elements wash it away. As artists, we leave everything on the pavement and it is truly only completed for a brief moment. The moment you call it complete is the moment that Mother Nature takes over is already blowing chalk away and fading the image until the first rain. It is only ever really complete but for that exact moment in time. It is one of the only art forms where you can watch the art emerge and interact with the artist as they create. It is more of a public performance. As far as picking images, as one of the “Chalk Guys” duo, we tend to pick fun pop culture references. For us, it’s like a couple of kids that never grew up.”
Street painter Michael Las Casas says “For me, it’s “uniqueness” isn’t all that unique. It’s performance art, just in chalk. Often asked, “Isn’t it a shame that it washes away?” My standard reply is; “You can’t take the ballet home. Enjoy the process of watching us create.” As for how I choose my “image” I don’t actually have a process for it, it just comes to me. Sometimes months before, sometimes only days before. It just has to strike me.”
Gallery: click on the photo to enlarge them.
“I think chalk artists are drawn to the art form because it allows us to work at a grand scale,” says Jeanie Burns. “It’s big, so it takes time and it’s exciting for viewers to watch a piece evolve. It’s fun for us artists, too. Many of us have developed friendships with fellow artists over the years so festivals become mini-reunions. This performance art creates a special bond. You feel creative energy when working among artists whose work you respect. I learn something new every time I get down on the asphalt — and I’ve been street painting for 23 years. We all work differently. Personally, I like to draw portraits, so I scout for images all year long. From classic reproduction web sites, contemporary art sites, or finding images when searching for something else. When I see something I like, I keep it on file and return to it. Sometimes I use reference images to develop something of my own; sometimes I do a straight reproduction. That’s the beauty of the art form. We get to choose.”
All proceeds and contributions to the Street Painting Festival benefit the Street Painting Festival Scholarships which are awarded each May to Palm Beach County graduating high school students and community projects associated with the arts.
This year’s event is on February 22 & 23 in downtown Lake Worth Beach with music that celebrates a rainbow of different beliefs and different cultures, food, and lots of chalk paintings on the street.
For event information, check www.streetpaintingfestivalinc.org
Lake Worth Street Painting Festival Chalks Up Success Year After Year