Chalk artists are a scrappy lot. Not only do the slave over pieces of art that will literally blow away in the wind, but they did not cower in the face of COVID. Once a mainstay of Larimer Square each June, the annual Denver Chalk Art Festival was disrupted in 2020 due to the pandemic. Undaunted, artists picked up their packs of colorful chalk and created original masterpieces in driveways and sidewalks throughout Denver.
Held on the three-day Labor Day weekend (September 3-5), more than 200 artists will hunker down over an 8’x8’ square of sidewalk to create pieces of art come hail or high water. Some create their own original work. Others offer reproductions of famous classics. And a few “wow” audiences with 3D images that appear to be leaping from or falling into the very ground.
Additionally, this year’s event features five professional Madonnari, which is a term given to the event’s featured artists who embody Italian street painters of 16th-century Italy. Of the five Madonnari, three are from Colorado:
- Chris Carlson is a professional 3-D chalk artist and mural painter from Denver. He has always been fascinated by optical illusions and trompe l’oeil paintings and incorporate these elements into his work, blurring the line between where the art ends and the real world begins.
- Steve DeOrio became involved in street painting in 2004. As a Colorado artist, he has been a featured artist in the Denver Chalk Art Festival for the past 5 years. According to Steve: “Many people are dismayed that these drawing are so transient, but I have found such freedom in this very issue. Nothing last forever.
- Mark Hollenbeck, an Art teacher and Art Academy Director in Parker, has been teaching Art for the past 28 years. He has been a featured artist at the Denver Chalk Art Festival, as well as at festivals in Houston, Centennial, Lakewood, Winter Park and San Antonio.
- Julie Kirk Purcell has traveled the world sharing her original designs with clients such as The Walt Disney Company & Studios, Universal Studios, The Howard Hughes Corporation, BankMuscat, Bloomburg LLP, Chrysler Corporation and Lexus Corporation. Julie is considered one of the foremost authorities on street painting technique.
- Dawn Wagner is originally from Santa Barbara, CA where the first US street painting festival took place. She started with classical reproductions, expanded into portraiture and now experiments with more contemporary compositions that explore different perspectives, and expand on the relationship between street art and the viewer.
But the event is far from a spectator sport. Instead, families with their own budding artists can visit the Kids Corner where hands-on creativity awaits. And local school groups may enter the Youth Challenge for a change to compete for art supplies and literal street cred.
This year’s event is perfectly situated in the Golden Triangle at 2364 S. Broadway with its adjacent museums, galleries and workshops including the Denver Art, Clyfford Still and Kirkland museums. The event is free…but fleeting. Streets are cleaned at the end of the day on Monday, September 5, so make sure to arrive in time to see these works of art before they are no more than a beautiful memory.