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Sacramento’s rich colors light up Chalk It Up festival

Chalk It Up gets creative on Sacramento sidewalks

Chalk art on the sidewalks of Sacramento delights visitors to the annual festival. The free event in Fremont Park, which includes live music and ethnic foods, ends at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5, 2016.
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Chalk art on the sidewalks of Sacramento delights visitors to the annual festival. The free event in Fremont Park, which includes live music and ethnic foods, ends at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5, 2016.

Chalk artists transformed Sacramento’s Fremont Park into the most colorful place in California this Labor Day weekend.

Bursts of blues, reds, turquoises, golds, yellows, greens, browns and a dozen other shades filled 220 concrete sidewalk paintings encircling the park for the 26th annual Chalk It Up family festival.

Tributes to Gene Wilder, Frida Kahlo, Prince, E.T., Pokémon and other icons came to life on the sidewalks, along with squares depicting lovers, children, urban landscapes and nature.

At 16th and Q streets, Michelle Hanley, an 11th-grade English teacher at Sacramento Charter High School, was putting the finishing touches on an astronaut giving the moon on a string to his fiancee.

“I just love the creative energy here,” said Hanley, 27, who encouraged her students to come out and chalk it up. “With budget cuts, art and music are the first to go.”

Ronzi Damien, 16, an 11th-grader at Natomas High School, was coloring in a smoky orange square called “Carmichael at Sunset,” based on the sunset she saw at a stoplight Friday night. “It’s really a great way to share creativity,” Damien said. “Everybody gets to express themselves in their own way.”

Anika Jimenez, a 17-year festival veteran, drew a Mexican girl based on Olivia, her 5-year-old niece, in a meadow of marigolds.

“In our culture, the bright orange, red and gold flower brings cheer,” said Jimenez, who was sponsored by Ernesto’s restaurant.

A variety of businesses bought squares for $150 apiece or $250 for two, sponsoring chalk artists of all ages and ethnicities. The proceeds – which include profits from the sale of pastels, chalkboards, T-shirts and other items – funded youth art grants to 25 applicants last year, said Chalk It Up board member Bonnie Franklin. As of Sunday afternoon, 15 squares were still for sale on a first-come, first-served basis.

You don’t have to pay to get involved. The sidewalks inside the park are free and open to all comers.

Charlotte Slania, a 4-year-old from Houston visiting her aunt in Sacramento, took a break from the rainbow she had been coloring to blow bubbles. Her older sister, Lillian, meanwhile, had created a tic-tac-toe board with a heart in the center.

For those who didn’t want to pick up the chalk but still “take part in the art,” Andy Duong, 37, created a “Selfie Square” where you could lie down on a yoga mat carved into the shape of a torso next to Duong’s favorite quote: “It’s impossible but I am possible.”

Dozens of people had taken selfies in his square. “I love it when kids do it,” he said.

Isaac Morris, 14, a 10th-grader at Mira Loma High School, spent four hours on a portrait of Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka next to his favorite quote from the movie: “We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.”

Scanning the range of artworks, he mused, “It’s a great opportunity for people to express themselves – everything looks good in chalk.”

To his left, his sister Autumn, 13, had prepared a mosaic style grid for their dad, Will Morris, to fill in a portrait of Nikola Tesla, the Serbian American inventor. Gypsy Andrews, their stepmom, drew a picture of E.T. trying to charge his mobile phone. “E.T.’s always trying to phone home,” Andrews explained.

The free festival, which includes live music and ethnic foods, ends at 6 p.m. Monday. It drew more than 30,000 people last year and raised $60,000 for the arts, said treasurer Phyllis Hayes. To apply for an art grant, go to www.chalkitup.org.

Stephen Magagnini: 916-321-1072, @SteveMagagnini

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