Arts & Entertainment

Festival gives artists something to chalk about

Art can be found anywhere. And it doesn't have to be created with paint on canvas, sculpted from clay, or chiseled in stone.

Sometimes all it takes is a simple piece of chalk and a public sidewalk. That's the theory behind the annual Chalk Art Festival, which is June 13 at the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland. Registration starts at 8 a.m. Chalkers will begin their work at 9 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m.

"Chalk art is a wonderful and unique form of creativity," said Gus Sako, the event's organizer and owner of the Octopus' Garden novelty store in the Uptown.

"Give the smallest toddler a piece of chalk and sidewalk and they will be happy for hours," he said.

The only downside to a Chalk Art Festival is that at the end of the day the creations are washed away into the city's storm drains.

This is the 10th year for the festival, with the list of participants still growing, Sako said.

"Many people are astounded by the quality of what can be done on a sidewalk," he said.

Sako added that the festival welcomes Washington State University Tri-Cities as a partner this year.

"Doug Gast's art students have produced some amazing promotional pieces for the festival and will be helping with the event," Sako said.

Judith Loomis and Bev Calicoat, both of Richland, have participated in the Chalk Art Festival almost every year.

Both women have won the competition in their division.

"Oh, it's such an adventure to do chalk art. I always feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants because I never know what I'm going to end up with until it's done," Calicoat said.

Calicoat works a graveyard shift but she doesn't let the lack of sleep prevent her from taking part in the chalking competition.

"I get off work and usually just head to the sidewalk," she said with a chuckle. "It's just too irresistible not to take part."

Both women also say creating chalk art can wreak havoc on the body, especially the knees, the back and shoulders.

"It's pretty hard for anyone to whip out a drawing in the hot sun on a dirty sidewalk. And, at almost 66, my knees are pretty creaky," Loomis said. "On the other hand, my kids just gave me a gardening stool with rails that might be just the thing!"

Calicoat says creating chalk art is like doing one-arm push ups for hours.

"I've been trying to train myself to use my left hand to paint so I'll probably do the same thing with chalk," Calicoat said.

The Chalk Art Festival was started by the now defunct Corporate Council for the Arts as a regional arts activity, Sako said. The festival moved to several locations until it finally settled at the Uptown a few years ago.

Categories and registration fees are: Up to age 5 $5; Ages 6-9 $5; Ages 10-12 $7; Ages 13-17 $7; Ages 18 and older $12. Sidewalks to be used for the chalk artistry will be on George Washington Way, Jadwin Avenue, Symons Streets and Williams Boulevard.

For more information, call 946-0077 or 943-6542.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;