Sarasota Chalk Festival: Sidewalks Come Alive

Posted by Tamara Berryman on Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 at 1:13pm.

Sarasota Chalk Festival: Sidewalks Come Alive The Sarasota Chalk Festival kicked off another successful year, drawing in dozens of internationally recognized artists from all over the world, including fan-favorite Kurt Wenner, a Baltimore street painting 3-D artist. Visitors counted in the hundreds of thousands last year, and this years by all measures, doesn't seem to be anything less. The massive art exposition event, sponsored by Avenida de Colores--a non-profit organization--was again held in historic Burns Square, in downtown Sarasotaon South Pineapple Avenue. The festival has become an institution in a short period of time, beginning in November of 2007.

Sarasota Chalk Festival History

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Funded through public grants, private grants, as well as private donations, the Chalk Festival of Sarasota was the brainchild of Denise Kowal. The inaugural year included 22 artists and drew an impressive 5,000 people to the event. Amazingly, of those 22 artists, just 3 had any street painting experience. Nonetheless, the festival was successful enough to warrant an encore in may 2009. That event drew 75 artists and thousands of visitors. The streak continued in 2010, when the festival became the first International Street Painting event in the United States. That same year, the number of artists was up to 250. But in 2011, the Sarasota City Council adopted measures that jeopardized the possibility of the festival from continuing. However, those obstacles were overcome and the event reached a milestone as it hosted some 200,000 visitors as it generated an estimated $6 to $10 million in local business. It also marked the highest artist attendance since the festival began, with over 500 artist participating.

The 2012 Festival

This year, the event's theme "Circus City USA" drew in hundreds of artist from all over the globe and hundreds of thousands of visitors. The "Circus City USA" theme is a tribute the the area's rich history, commemorating the birthplace and headquarters of the world-famous Ringling Bros. Circus. The event also played host to a myriad of entertainment choices: such as music, drama, dance, and acrobatic and aerial performances. And because no outside vendors are permitted, local businesses thrived during the event.

Tamara Berryman
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