By Olivia Cameron
Photos by Dusty Hopkins
To honor an art that goes back to Paleolithic times, international artists will gather, once
again, on the pavement near Venice Municipal Airport to bring their illusive creations to
life through chalk sketches this November. With up to 250 artists coloring the asphalt,
each creation features a cohesive blend of art within a given theme. The festival typically
showcases the work of 3D pavement artists, sculptors, traditional pavement artists and vertical
Visitors are dazzled by the extraordinary illusions and intricate designs drawn on bumpy
surfaces. Chalk drawing is considered to be a type of performance art that supposedly
originated from the Madonnari of Italy. The Madonnari were a group of artists who sketched
markings on the ground in the 16th century. In the 1970s, the few remaining Madonnari
began to display their work at the International Madonnari Festival in Grazie di Curtatone,
which took place in Northern Italy.
Meanwhile, Robert Guilemin, also known as “Sidewalk Sam,” drew
inspiration from the Madonnari and began to draw on the pavement in
Massachusetts. His passion for creating on a unique canvas stuck with
him until his recent death. By the 1980s, the fi rst American Madonnari,
Kurt Wenner, invented 3D pavement depictions. He began the fi rst
American chalk festival.
By 2010, the Chalk Festival became the fi rst international pavement
art festival to take place in America, which has since been heavily
inspired by the original Madonnari.
The Chalk Festival that is held in Venice has gained more traction in
its popularity with tourists and residents each year. People love to come
out and watch artists create work, with the themes such as the movies,
endangered species, veterans, love, and more.
When using an outdoor canvas, artists must remain
optimistic that their chalk won’t be washed away
by a storm; however, even a mist of rain can add
a different mix of color to their creation. While the
chalk is worked down to a nub, artists use a variety
of techniques to blend the pigment.
September/October • 2020 • GASPARILLA MAGAZINE A