Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Main Street Became Their Canvas

Safety Harbor thrives when there's art involved. This little town has an energy--a pulse. Over the weekend, the third annual Chalkfest was held along Main Street. Close to seventy artists showed up, and for all who organized the event, volunteered, visited, or sat on their knees, ready to paint their concrete canvases, the rain of the past two years (torrential rain that showed up at the worst times during the previous chalk art festivals), didn't appear to be a concern.

Chalk artists came from all over the country, but many were locals. Even our town barber, Brian Feist participated.
It was fun to see his framed artwork inside the shop as well as his street art.

Safety Harbor watercolor artist, Andy Philyaw looked like a seasoned veteran with his chalk-covered hands and knee pads, but this was only his second attempt, and his first completed street painting. His Iris was a beautiful rendition of one of his original paintings.

Like Andy, it's also physically hard on the knees for Alice Scott Crittendon, but chalking is her passion. Alice is from the California Gold Coast and has participated in festivals for thirteen years. Her street art is vibrant and rich, partially due to the high quality pigments she uses for her chalk recipes, which she willingly shares.

If you're interested in her handmade chalk, visit her website to purchase some. You can even request specific colors.

Alice and another California artist, Lysa Ashley, were Todd and Kiaralinda's guests at Casa Loco. Besides being an artist, Lysa is a Kindergarten teacher in Southern California. Her passion for her art is apparent, and as she added a peachy skin tone to her painting, she talked about where she finds inspiration. For her street art, she has chosen to use work by a Russian artist living in Spain by the name of "Elenadudina." "I was a huge fan and we started communicating. She was excited when I asked if I could use her art in my paintings," Lysa said.

Lysa also talked about the community that has formed amongst the other street painters, not only with her fellow painters, but also from the crowds that are drawn to these events. "We've got such a camaraderie--a family," she said. "Chalk art allows a huge billboard for your art, but there's a spiritual and emotional side to it too. It's also a way to show work in progress and people who don't usually get to see art view the work in progress. They see the process of how art comes alive."

Stacy Roth co-chaired the event alongside Bobbie Wheeler, and with the help of social director, Glen Caristinos. "We couldn't have done it without the O'Gosh members," Stacy said, speaking about a group of Safety Harbor residents who meet once a month and volunteer throughout the year to help the community's non-profit organizations. Stacy started O'Gosh over a year ago so events like Chalkfest had a backbone support system of volunteers.

Lee Jones travels all over, even after two knee surgeries. This year her "LOL" captured attention with her drawing of two teenagers laughing. The teens are her daughter, Brin and her daughter's boyfriend, David.

I wish I'd had time to talk to all the artists, but I didn't. I can honestly say there wasn't one painting that did not impress me. They were all so unique--so fun and beautiful.

I even got to chuckle a bit when I found the Public Potty by a Cool E Fex artist from Tampa.

The sad thing though, is that it is temporary art. Alice Scott Crittendon told me that photographs are the highest compliment. And when I woke at 3:00 Monday morning to the sound of thunder and heavy raindrops, I thought of our conversation and how she explained her daughter's view of her work. "It's like those people who make those beautiful cakes. People spend thousands of dollars on them and then they're cut up into hundreds of pieces and eaten." Alice continued, "It's the same with performance art. You see it and it's over. Or, it's like a bouquet of roses or wildflowers in a field."

And she's right. The beauty of the weekend is now faded on our sidewalks, but a vivid memory, and one that will stay with me for a long time.

I can't wait for next year!

Note: A huge thank you to S. Meagher for allowing me to use the photograph of Lysa Ashley's painting of the fantasy woman.

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