A different kind of street art

Inaugural Victoria international Chalk Art Festival displays a different kind of street art

Chalk artist Michael Las Casas (West Palm Beach, Fla.) is making his way to Victoria for the chalk art festival.

When most people hear chalk art, they immediately picture the stick-figure portrait that the neighbour kids drew on their driveway. And while that may be “art,” it won’t prepare you for what’s in store at the inaugural Victoria International Chalk Art Festival, hitting downtown Sept. 12-16.

The festival kicks off with renowned street painter Tracy Lee Stum beginning her 20-by-20-foot 3D chalk art drawing at the Bay Centre (lower level, centre court). Stum will take the full five days of the festival to create her interactive masterpiece, which will remain on display at the Bay Centre until Sept. 30.

“She truly is the top of the top,” says festival executive director John Vickers. “To have her here is a real treat for the community.”

Festival organizers are building a special canvas-covered floor for Stum to work on.

The festival spills outdoors onto Government Street on the weekend, where other internationally known street artists will be live-painting.

“As a resident of Government Street, I’ve always felt this is a beautiful city, but that it’s lacking in family-friendly free events to draw people downtown,” says Vickers.

To remedy that need, Vickers is hoping to establish three annual downtown festivals. The first was the Victoria International Buskers Festival, which just finished its second successful year. The second is the chalk festival, and the third is the Victoria International Kite Festival, which Vickers is hoping to host at Clover Point in the coming years.

While researching for the chalk art festival, Vickers was introduced to Denise Kowal, the organizer of the largest chalk art festival in North America (in Sarasota, Fla.) and invited Kowal to be artistic director of the Victoria festival. Through her contacts, the festival was able to secure six of the world’s best street artists, including Stum, street portrait painter Jeanie Burns (West Palm Beach, Fla.), colourful chameleon Cathy Gallatin (Medford, Ore.), mural maestro Lori Escalera (California), renaissance recreator Gabrielle Abbot (Seattle, Wash.), Michael Las Casas (West Palm Beach, Fla.) and Victoria’s own Ian Morris, who can often be found painting portraits on Government Street.

On Saturday and Sunday, Government Street will host the “Artist Zone,” where the other six guest artists will be creating their masterpieces.

“Escalera is planning to do a portrait of a young Queen Victoria in honour of the city’s 150th anniversary,” says Vickers.

Each artist will be given a 10-by-12-foot zone to work in, and part of the street will be blocked off for the public to try their hand.

“We’ve ordered tons of chalk,” says Vickers. “It’s free fun for everybody.”

Government Street (between Yates and Fort) will remain closed to vehicle traffic from 6am Saturday to 6pm Sunday as most artists will need two full days to complete their work.

Local artists, with or without chalk experience, are invited to work alongside these international artists over the weekend. Escalera is also running a free tutorial on Thurs., Sept. 13 for those interested in participating. To get involved, visit victoriachalkfestival.com,  fill out the artist application form and email or drop it off at the festival headquarters in the Bay Centre. M

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