Chalk this way: The International Chalk Festival

From 28 different countries, artists traveled to Venice, Fla. to participate in the annual International Chalk Festival. Remaining on their hands and knees for several hours on end, artists created breath-taking pieces of artwork under the sun. By the end of the day, every artist was able to admire their art as well as mingle among the fascinated audience and peruse other chalk work.

What started in 2007 in Sarasota County as a local festival has since expanded to become the Sarasota International Chalk Festival, attracting more than 200,000 visitors a year. On Nov. 14 through the 17, Venice closed downtown access as artists and viewers flooded the streets with color, food, music and excitement.

The event welcomed anyone to participate regardless of age or skill level. Some chose to collaborate on a piece and some chose to work individually. Among the international artists, was Michelle Clinton, her daughter, Ava Clinton and co-worker Melissa Aldan. Together they collaborated on a piece, highlighting the endangered national Guatemalan bird, the Quetzal.

“We’ve only been doing chalk art for about a year,” Clinton said. “We [Clinton and Aldan] both teach art at Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto. So we’ve been doing art for a very long time.”

Clinton has volunteered with the festival many times in the past, triggering her inspiration to participate.

“We just kind of decided, you know, we just need to go for it and just start and do it.”

Street painting and street art dates back to sixteenth century Italy. Traditionally, these artists were called “Madonnari” and typically traveled from festival to festival displaying their artwork, making their living by coins tossed into a collection plate next to their artwork. This tradition is carried out in modern chalk festivals where artists will leave containers next to their work. Unlike the Madonnari, the money collected goes toward the festival and the artist who collects the most money receives a “People’s Choice Cash Award.”

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