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Annual Chalk Festival

Stefanie Lima Taub, Director of Community Arts
September 13, 2023
Two young girls drawing with colorful chalk on the side walk. There are already chalk drawings on the ground of a robot and the word "love"

When everyone has finished their drawings and gone home, and all the supplies have been packed up for next year, I love to take a moment and stand at the top of the Fine Arts Garden to bask in the abounding creativity that has just occurred in front of my eyes at the annual Chalk Festival.

For two days in September, people of all artistic abilities take over the Fine Arts Garden to make their mark on the pathways, using vibrant colors and rich imagination. Families of multiple generations, groups of friends, and students from neighborhood schools, colleges, and universities all come out to spend a day or two enjoying the last of the warm weather in one of Cleveland’s most beautiful outdoor gardens to create something original. Some people draw inspiration from the museum’s world-renowned art collection and exhibitions, some pay tribute to a lost friend, and some just doodle, scribble, and explore colors. No matter what the artistic level, every pavement square becomes an ephemeral masterpiece.

Begun in 1990, the annual Chalk Festival is a modern expression of a 16th-century Renaissance tradition from Italy in which artists copied paintings of the Madonna by Raphael and his contemporaries using chalk on the plazas outside cathedrals, and passersby would provide money to the artists as they worked. Drawing inspiration from this tradition, our festival invites community members to create alongside professional artists throughout the weekend while enjoying live music and a picnic on the lawn.

Not everyone needs to create. Visitors are welcome to stroll through the gardens and enjoy the artistic creations and entertainment for free. Many long-time visitors come at the beginning of the festival on Saturday to see artists starting their work and then return at the end to see the final drawings.

Everyone can participate at the Chalk Festival! To chalk your own creation, visit the registration tent in the Fine Arts Garden to purchase your pavement square. Chalk pastels suitable for the museum’s pavement are included in the square purchase. For $10, a volunteer will guide you to a small square of your choice with a 12-count box of chalk pastels. For $20, you will receive a large square and a 24-count box of chalk pastels. Participation is first come, first served while supplies last. This year we will not be preregistering groups.

As in past years, the museum will host professional chalk artists throughout the Fine Arts Garden who will create large-scale chalk drawings. This year’s featured artists are Sequoia Bostick, Bruno Casiano, and Debra Sue Solecki. We are also excited to welcome two groups of students from the Cleveland Institute of Art who will work together to create large artworks. These artists will draw inspiration from the museum’s collection, mash up different works of art, or come with original ideas.

Food trucks provided by Smooth Rider and Off the Griddle will be available at the bottom of the Fine Arts Garden, and the museum café will be open during the festival. Making a return appearance is Ropa Vieja, playing the latest Latin American hits as well as the classics.

Join us for a relaxing weekend to create art, enjoy outdoor music and food, and make memories with friends and family this Saturday and Sunday, September 16 and 17, from noon to 5:00 p.m., rain or shine.