Columbus Arts Fest preview: Artists look to chalk for inspiration

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From the June 5, 2014 edition

Sidewalk chalk in the summertime is a childhood classic, but with more and more artists chalking as a serious medium, the activity is maturing into a popular expertise. Now, the Greater Columbus Arts Council is jumping on the craze and incorporating it into its Arts Festival by holding a chalk-art competition.

“We have a lot of a really talented artists who work in that medium,” said Jami Goldstein, the festival’s spokesperson. “When we think about how we can continue to embrace other art forms with the festival, chalk art was one of the first things that came to mind.”

So, who are these chalk artists, and how did they get their start? For competing artist Candice Oates, it began as a high school hobby.

“We have an event at my high school every year, and that’s where I did it for the first time,” Oates said. “I’ve been doing it whenever I can ever since.”

Oates is an advertising and graphic design student at CCAD, and said her work in chalk differs from her work in design.

“I guess chalk is a bit more creative freedom,” she said. “I used to do a lot more fine-art stuff, but I really haven’t since I’ve been in college. My piece at Chalk the Block last year was just, like, this giant self-portrait. I don’t really get to do things like that anymore.”

Another competing artist and graphic designer, Jan Solari, said the ability to manipulate the space beyond a sketch is what she loves about the medium.

“I like adding physical elements, the idea of something being there that’s not really there,” Solari said of her chalk designs. “I also like that it’s not permanent. It makes it special.”

Chalk artist Tristan Seeger works as a fine artist by day and runs a face painting business on the side. Seeger said he got involved with chalking because he loves its sense of community involvement.

“I think the style of this type of thing really gets people involved in the arts, and it’s important for people to understand the difficulty of art in general,” Seeger said.

According to Seeger, the physical intensity of chalk art is the only downside.

“I’m only 26, and when I did it last time my knees hurt for six days,” Seeger laughed. “This year I’m bringing knee pads.”

Oates agreed.

“It’s something I would like to do regularly, but it’s not something I could do for 8 hours a day,” she said.

While the chance to chalk is rare for most, three of the artists are not so foreign to the opportunity. As graphic designers for Whole Foods in Dublin, Todd Mason, Grace Thompson and Stephen Davis chalk frequently for the store. They plan to create a cohesive theme through all their designs, representing Whole Foods and their individual personalities.

“Since we are all from Ohio, we want to do something that is going to be a tribute to our city and our values as a company as well,” Davis said.

Mason said that while winning the competition would be rewarding, the real purpose behind their participation is getting involved with their local community.