Pasadena Chalk Festival Goes Virtual

At least 200 artists expected to participate in this weekend's event
Published on Jun 20, 2020

Image Courtesy Pasadena Chalk Festival Facebook

After an incredible 27-year run in which it grew to become the largest chalk art festival in the United States – with over 600 artists from across Southern California creating 200 chalk murals in every style imaginable, and more than 25,000 annual attendees – the Pasadena Chalk Festival has been forced to go virtual this year due to health concerns tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, organizers are determined to make this year’s fest a successful one, with this weekend’s event still expected to feature images of 200 murals via the Internet thanks to encouraging artists to use the hashtag #pasadenachalkfestival on Facebook and Instagram. According to Patty Hurley, who teams with Tom Coston to oversee the Festival annually through their Light Bringer Project, this year’s edition is expected to include plenty of artworks that reflect on the tumultuous events of 2020.

“You can do anything at all, but there’s so much going on in society these last few months that artists are like kids in a candy store when you ask them to express themselves over a weekend to participate in basically a conglomeration of artists all over the city at the same time,” says Hurley. “They really want to get into that, be part of the herd of artists and have their voice be heard. We can’t wait. It’s going to be fascinating.”

Hurley notes that in contrast to past years, there won’t be prizes for the top artworks, because judging would be too difficult with the artworks scattered all over the city and possibly beyond. In addition, asking the usual array of businesses and restaurants to contribute prizes at a time when most are suffering downturns amid the COVID-19 lockdowns would prove burdensome for them.

However, the upside of doing the fest virtually is that artists can create their works under much more pleasant and simple conditions than in past years, when they had to search for space amid the crowded sidewalks of the Paseo Colorado mall.  There are also no entry fees or age requirements to participate this year; artists are simply asked to make a chalk mural between Thursday and Sunday night, take a picture of it and share it on their social media with the #pasadenachalkfestival tag.

“Then their job is done, and we’ll put it together from there,” says Hurley. “It’s important to us that artists don’t skip this year, and participate. They virtually decide if they want to participate or want to just sit back and watch the murals go by on their phones and computer devices.

“In a way, it is like the chalk festival because people will stop by and ask questions wherever you are, and you’re doing art out in public,” she adds. “We call it the museum without walls. It’s going to be a fast-flowing river of images on your Instagram and Facebook. Our goal is to create a gallery of 200 murals at”

The virtual festival is just one example of the changes inflicted upon Light Bringer Project this year, as its annual Litfest Pasadena had to be canceled in May. Yet they have found innovative ways to maintain their commitment to bringing arts education to schools in the Los Angeles and Pasadena school districts.

“We do a lot of public art programs in Pasadena and LAUSD, and we had to keep those going despite home schooling, and that was a challenge but we’re good at responding to challenges and reinventing the wheel,” notes Hurley. “One thing we do at high schools is bring artists to discuss their careers. We were ready to start a series of videos of artists in their studios, talking bout their life and work in an intimate look at their careers.”

Hurley notes that this year’s festival already had an unofficial kickoff thanks to Pasadena artist Sarah Flores, who created a stirring mural paying tribute to George Floyd, Ahmad Aubery and Breonna Taylor, three of the most noteworthy victims of police and race-based shootings in recent weeks. Flores spent last Thursday through Sunday creating the artwork on the driveway of Pasadena’s Jackie Robinson Center, and it will remain on display there until the chalk festival ends on Sunday night.

“I went up there to watch her some of the time and this young woman was sitting on the ground drawing and drawing, with only occasional passersby able to see her work up close because cars were flying by,” says Hurley. “People know what the Jackie Robinson Center represents, so she got a lot of beautiful comments from all age groups and backgrounds of people.

“We’re hoping that people just walking around this weekend getting their coffee in the morning or taking a walk at night might stumble across these murals and ask if they’re in the festival, then share the images as a random act of kindness,” Hurley adds. “We’ll be on the beat looking to take our own photos anywhere we can, so put on your walking shoes and we hope you’ll find some in a neighborhood near you.”

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