Curated from passionate art goers, Chalkfest at Arbor Lakes, presented by Minneapolis Northwest Tourism, celebrates the creativity of 50 emerging and professional chalk artists from across the globe.
For two days along the four-block span of Main Street, visitors are encouraged to engage in artists’ process of creation from start to finish—rain or shine. “When you go to a museum, you see a piece of art that is preserved for people to enjoy. By contrast, this is more of a performance art,” says Chalkfest co-founder Nancy Whitelaw, about the intriguing element of street art.
What makes this event unique from other art festivals is that attendees are given a first-hand look at how the artists create their visual pieces. “You see them start to sketch it out, how their process works, how they choose colors and how they fill their design, and, by the end of the weekend, the piece is complete,” says co-founder Shawn McCann. (Jennie Zafft was among the trio to initiate the event.)
The festival also features perspective pieces, a free-hand chalk area for visitors to contribute to, a public mandala and chalk workshops for aspiring artists. Aside from the artistic elements, the event will also have live music from a DJ, a variety of food trucks, local vendors and more. “For a free festival, it is pretty amazing the different things that the audience can experience.” McCann says.
As the fourth year of this event, it is everything Whitelaw could have dreamed of and more. In 1989, Whitelaw traveled to Europe on a business trip with her husband when she stumbled across a variety of street artists in Barcelona and was awestruck by their artistic talent. Whitelaw had always had a love for art, but her discovery overseas fueled her desire to feature this medium back home. Several years passed before she met professional chalk artist and soon-to-be co-founder McCann. Whitelaw was familiar with his work and wanted to collaborate with him to create a one-of-a-kind event.
At the time, McCann was one of the only professional chalk artists in the area. As a practicing street artist and children’s book illustrator, who graduated from Minneapolis College of Art and Design, his desire to create visual art was always in the forefront of his life. After stumbling upon street art, McCann instantly fell in love with the format, and he decided to try his creative hand at it.
Coincidently, he was making a chalk piece (his first) for the grand opening of Arbor Lakes in 2005, so it was only fitting that McCann would foster a festival that would capture the essence of his work in that very spot several years later in 2016.
With hundreds of applicants, McCann says that it is hard to narrow down the artists to just a select few. (The budget only allows for about 50 artists.)
Organizers hope to expand the event. “To see that kind of quality come to the Twin Cities to come together for a weekend of creating is pretty awesome,” McCann says.