Tulsa International Mayfest and the Blue Dome Arts Festival entice musicians, painters, weavers and photographers to set up shop and display their latest designs and expressions to Tulsans as they stroll through the celebration-filled streets of downtown.
While there is always plenty to engage the eyes and ears, a different art form is making its debut this year, and when the dust settles, it will likely give rise to a bit of adult nostalgia and childhood daydreaming.
Local artists have turned in their oils and acrylics for a less permanent but equally colorful medium and an urban canvas.
The Deco District's Chalk Art Festival will literally dust Boston Avenue between 4th and 6th Streets on Saturday and Sunday, May 21-22.
While this event's tools are typically employed upon driveways, the Chalk Art Festival is far from child's play.
Each artist will be given a 10-foot square of asphalt for a canvas and will be provided supplies by individual sponsors. Many artists will represent Deco District businesses and the murals are likely to reflect the sponsors, though there is no specific theme they have to follow.
The artists will be separated into three categories: high school, college and adult, and each will be judged by a panel. The chalk hits the pavement 10am Saturday and each artist has four hours to complete their work. At 2pm sharp, chalk down. The judging begins.
Passers-by will find everything from a Hispanic graffiti-inspired mural to works depicting breathtaking vineyards and Tulsa landmarks. Deco District Association president Libby Auld hopes that the artists will feel free to express themselves personally and politically.
Artist Jared Rudichuk, representing Mod's Coffee and Crepes, is well known for his surrealist acrylic paintings, but will lend his talent to a new medium during the chalk festival.
"Lately, I've been feeling like my art is too self-centered and it's hard for people to relate to, so I'm hoping to have some kind of message that people can appreciate when they walk by," he said. "Something more geared toward the community."
The Chalk Art Festival may be the city's first organized display of such street art, but the tradition is as old as art itself. In 16th-century Italy, artists known as "I Madonnari" were travelling artists who set up shop on the street, placed a hat out for charitable onlookers and began drawing their ornate designs (usually images of the Madonna).
Street art has evolved through the ages and talented painters now flock to chalk festivals from Pasadena, Calif. to Sarasota, Fla. The organizers of Tulsa's Chalk Art Festival hope that the inaugural year will showcase local artists, allow Tulsans to see what the Deco District has to offer and serve as a building block for future chalk festivals.
"I think this will be a good small start and in years to come (the festival) will be able to block off three or four streets and allow a lot of self-expression," Auld said.
The Deco District Association is collaborating with Mayfest to provide a well-rounded experience to those strolling through the streets over the weekend. The Tulsa Children's Museum is setting up a KidZone on the corner of 6th and Boston, allowing children to play while parents watch the chalk murals evolve. A section of sidewalk will also be set aside so kids can get dusty and create murals of their own.
Officially sponsored artists will compete for a grand prize, which includes a $500 gift certificate to Spexton Jewelry, a one-night's stay at the Downtown Courtyard Marriott hotel, dinner and drinks for two at Elote, and gelato from Mod's Coffee and Crepes. The first place winner from each category will also receive a prize.
The street will remain closed until 5pm on Sunday to allow festivalgoers to see the temporary works of art, free of charge.
Here's hoping for a beautiful sunshine-filled weekend.
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