The Denver Chalk Art Festival gives the public a chance to watch the creative process in action — Photo courtesy of Evan Semon / Denver Chalk Art Festival
During this popular event, more than 200 artists turn the streets in and around Larimer Square into an art extravaganza for all ages.
In addition to blocks of amazing drawings, the festival includes live music, food and drink, special activities for kids and a chance for festival-goers to watch and interact with the artists as they create.
Renaissance-era artists created reproductions of masterpieces on the streets. In the same tradition, this piece won "Best Reproduction of a Master Work" at the 2013 Denver Chalk Festival — Photo courtesy of Michael Rieger / Denver Chalk Art Festival
The tradition of street painting originated during the Renaissance, when artists used the streets of Italy as an ever-evolving canvas. They were known as the madonnari, for their practice of recreating paintings of the Madonna in chalk.
Eventually, these street-savvy artists also began recreating many of the great masterpieces, a practice that continues today among contemporary madonnari.
Today’s artists dedicated to this medium have mastered a variety of techniques, and they work not with plain chalk but with luminous handmade French pastels. Works in the Denver Chalk Art Festival are a mix of modern pieces, surreal chalk-art creations and complex renderings of traditional masterpieces.
Colorado artist Grace Hollenbeck, here working on a piece from last year, is one of this year's featured artists — Photo courtesy of Michael Rieger / Denver Chalk Art Festival
The 2015 edition of the festival showcases the work of five exceptional madonnari (professionals in the medium). All are award-winning street painters, and some are also among the top winners at the International Street Painting Competition in Grazie di Curtatone.
Two of this year’s madonnari – Stephen DeOrio and Grace Hollenbeck – are also Colorado residents. While the rest of the artists in the competition create 8-by-8-foot or 8-by-12-foot works, each of the five madonnari draw a 12-by-12-foot street masterpiece.
The festival takes place on Larimer between 15th Street and Speer Boulevard and on 14th Street between Market and Lawrence — Photo courtesy of Evan Semon / Denver Chalk Art Festival
The lineup of music for the event includes Colorado-based musicians and bands Owen Kortz, Zen Mustache, Coal Town Reunion, Waitin’ on Ray, Boogie Machine and Redline Radio, among others. There's something for everyone, from folk and blues artists to boogie-worthy dance bands.
Parents and kids should check out the popular Kids' Corner, where for a small donation – which helps support Larimer Arts Association and other local charities – kids receive their own bag of goodies, including chalk that they can use to create temporary masterpieces of their own.
The festival is an interactive experience, especially for kids, who get their own chalk and space to create for the price of a small donation — Photo courtesy of Evan Semon / Denver Chalk Art Festival
Another part of the festival for younger artists is the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design Challenge, a competition for groups of students from across the metro area that compete for cash prizes. The money goes toward art supplies for the winners’ schools, much needed funds in these days of school cuts.
There are 20 spots for teams from local schools and youth groups, each group creating a work of art as part of the festival's public art extravaganza.
The 2015 Denver Chalk Art Festival is set for Friday, June 5, through Sunday, June 7. The weekend festival runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
No worries if you're busy during the day; the festival runs into the evening, when Larimer Square shines under a canopy of lights — Photo courtesy of Evan Semon / Denver Chalk Art Festival