A little bit of Italy comes to The Mile High City every summer, thanks to the annual Denver Chalk Art Festival. Check back for 2018 dates.
The art you'll encounter during the Denver Chalk Art Festival isn't in galleries — it's on the pavement! The event features more than 200 professional and amateur artists who will spend hours on their hands and knees over the course of two days. Their efforts transform Larimer Square into a bright and colorful street museum, adorned in vivid pastel chalks.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
The Piazza dell'Arte ("square of art") tradition stretches all the way back to 16th-century Renaissance Italy, when the artists of the era began using asphalt as a canvas, creating temporary masterpieces with chalk. The artists were called "madonnari," after their customary practice of recreating chalk paintings of the Madonna. Historically, madonnari were known for their life of travel and freedom, making their living from coins tossed from passers-by.
In the 20th century, the tradition fell by the wayside until the 1970s, when the small town of Grazie di Curtatone in Italy started the first international street painting competition. Today, artists worldwide are taking to the streets, bringing with them new ideas, techniques and excitement for this ancient form of expression. Handmade French pastels have replaced the simple chalks previously used, and the paintings have become complicated images of traditional master-style works, modern pieces and surreal chalk originals.
WHAT YOU'LL SEE
Creating these amazing works of art requires more than just scribbling on the sidewalk. First, the artist must draw an outline of the original painting in proper proportion using pencil or a charcoal pastel. Then they begin to lay the base of colors. Using a number of colored pastels, the artist layers the chalk, blending the colors to create shadow, contrast and depth. The art may not last long, but that's sort of the point. The fun in this kind of art is in the performance aspect. Visitors to the Denver Chalk Art Festival are given the rare opportunity to watch as an artist transforms a spot of blank asphalt into a beautifully expressive painting.
Of course, that's not all that attendees will be doing at the festival. There will be music, Italian food, wine tasting tents and an art gallery, not to mention a kids' corner where your young ones will get a chance to make some chalk art of their own!