Life is brief. Art is long.
Except if the art is a chalk drawing on the pavement. Then a masterpiece is just a pressure washer away from being a memory.
That bittersweet reality will be on display June 10-11 at Chalkfest in the Arbor Lakes business district of Maple Grove, where nearly three dozen professional chalk artists from the U.S. and other countries will use three blocks of Main Street asphalt as their canvases.
This is the second year of the free street art festival co-founded by Shawn McCann, an artist from Crystal who has participated in street painting festivals around the world for the past 12 years.
Street art isn’t exactly new. In the 16th century, itinerant Italian folk artists known as “madonnari” created chalk drawings of the Madonna in exchange for coins tossed by passersby. English street painters like the Bert character in “Mary Poppins” were called “screevers.”
The art form experienced a resurgence starting in 1970s with a street painting festival in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy. Dozens of festivals have since been started in Europe and the United States, typically in warm-climate states like California and Florida.
But McCann said there hasn’t been a major street art festival in the Upper Midwest until Chalkfest got started last year.
“It’s nice it’s finally coming up to the North,” McCann said.
Last year’s version of Chalkfest featured 20 professional artists. This year, McCann is bringing 34 artists to Minnesota including some international participants like Cuboliquido, a street painter from Italy; Jincy Babu and Limnesh Augustine, husband and wife artists from India; and Mexican street painter Abraham Burciaga.
Many of the chalk artists use a technique called “anamorphic drawing” or “perspectival anamorphosis,” meaning that the drawing, viewed from a particular angle, appears three-dimensional, either rising up from the pavement or sunk in a giant hole in the street.
Most artists will be given a 10-by-10-foot patch of pavement to turn into a chalk painting, but a pair of Florida artists called “The Chalk Guys” will be planning something bigger: a chalk drawing up to 40 feet long and 18 feet wide.
Tonya Youngberg, a chalk artist from Bountiful, Utah, is planning a portrait of Walter Matthau next to a version of Jack Lemmon being done by Florida chalk artist Bridget Lyons for a Minnesota-inspired tribute to “Grumpy Old Men.”
The artists will start work in the early morning of June 10. The public is invited to watch the art being created between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on both June 10 and 11.
Chalk talk with artists at work is welcome. Typical questions: What happens when it rains? Don’t your knees get sore? Answers: tarps and kneepads.
“People can appreciate watching the process and watching the art unfold in front of them,” said Hector Diaz, one of the Chalk Guys.
The public will also have a chance to do a little drawing themselves by coloring in a giant community mandala design.
There’s time for photographs after the drawings are completed. But the street has to be reopened to traffic Sunday night, so the art will be power-washed away after sundown. All that creativity then becomes chalk-tinged water flowing into the gutters.
“To watch them wash it off is definitely a different feeling after spending several hours working on it,” Youngberg said.
“It’s no different from a musical performance,” McCann said. “You enjoy the act of it being done, and then you walk away.”