Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

Go ahead, chalk it up


  • Bryan Rindfuss

Painting in pastels (dry pigments mixed with a binder to make chalk), goes way back — Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) mentions the practice in his notebooks. In Europe, pastels have been used in street painting for centuries, most often to make copies of saints' images in cathedral plazas. Passers-by would drop a coin to the artist in hopes of a blessing. The beginnings of the practice are obscure, but it became rare in the aftermath of World War II. A resurgence of the art form began in Britain in the 1970s, spread to Italy, and soon hopped the pond to North America, where it became a staple of street style performance art (and busking). Chalk festivals have flourished in many cities, and though the fests are secular rather than religious in nature, copying of famous paintings and original realistic art prevails. Not so at Chalk It Up, the annual downtown street fest organized by Artpace. Expect a convergence of contemporary and kid art at this year's annual event, with 20 featured and showcase artists, murals by schools, music, food, and opportunities to make your own mark. Free; 10am-4pm Saturday October 13, Chalk It Up, Houston Street between N Main and Jefferson, (210) 212-4900,


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