Sarasota Chalk Festival Returns to Burns Court with World Premiere

Todays News

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY APR 3, 2019

It’s been five years since the International Sarasota Chalk Festival actually graced the streets of Sarasota, but this Friday the annual celebration returns to its home in the Burns Court area for a three-day spectacle in the streets. “It’s kind of like going back to our roots,” says Denise Kowal, festival founder and organizer. And while this year might be a little smaller than previous, with Kowal and the festival feeling out its return to the old stomping grounds, the affair features more than 50 artists from around the world and the world premiere of the latest, patented creation from the father of 3D pavement art, Kurt Wenner.

Now in its 11th season, the festival regularly attracts artists of international renown to the region for an up-close and personal display of their artistic prowess, turning the blacktop into a multicolored tapestry for all to see and appreciate—and Wenner has been no stranger to the festivities. This year, the celebrated American innovator returns to debut his recently patented “illusion environment,” an installation that takes his perspective-bending optical illusions into a literal 3D space.

“It’s a mind-blower,” says Kowal, who has been able to go behind the scenes with the carpenters helping assemble the installation, where geometry reigns supreme and math class is certainly in session. Nothing is perpendicular, but all angles are precise, and, once completed, Wenner’s artwork will adorn every surface, all in conversation for a grand optical illusion. “It’s just never been done before,” Kowal says. “This is [Wenner] taking things to the next level.”

It’s a level of artistry that Kowal hoped to convey in the title of this year’s festival—“Museum in Motion.” Chalk artists don’t command the same respect as other fine artists, she contends, and something about the medium or its transitory nature leads audiences to treat it more as a quaint craft than a serious endeavor. “But almost all of our artists have work in museums,” says Kowal. “And the work that they do while they’re here? They put as much time and skill into those pieces as they do the museum pieces.” The big difference, she says, is that audiences at the Sarasota Chalk Festival get to see the work being made, and talk with the artist one-on-one.

Running April 5–7 in the Burns Court area, the International Sarasota Chalk Festival is staged entirely by volunteers and free to the public, but $10 donations are requested. Kowal cannot say whether or not this weekend means a permanent return for the festival, but community support will surely play a role.

“We’re going to evaluate how this one goes,” she says. “We’re going to see if we can make budget.”

Pictured: "Circus Paradise" and Kurt Wenner from Sarasota Chalk Festival 2012. Photo by David Tyler.

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