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Embracing Street Art – The Sarasota Chalk Festival

Embracing Street Art – The Sarasota Chalk Festival

One form of unique street art is that of chalk pavement art, which is also known as Italian street painting. Here in the United States, this mode of urban art is celebrated at the annual Sarasota Chalk Festival in Florida. Throughout the festival, street artists create installations on the road surface in chalk or, occasionally, special paint, with spectators coming to watch the creative process unfold.


The Chalk Festival focuses on the form of street art that is popular in Italy, where the artists are referred to as Madonna. Street painting in Italy dates back to the 1500’s, and the Madonna were vagabonds who were visual counterparts of performing minstrels; they travelled between towns and festivals and made their living from coins tossed into collection plates places beside their artworks on the pavement. Traditionally, the chalk drawings (which were also created with brick, colored stones, and charcoal) created by the Madonna had religious themes.


The art of the Madonna became popularized in the modern day in the 1980’s with the birth of the International Street Painting Festival in Grazie de Curatone, Italy. The first American to pioneer 3D chalk drawings was Kurt Wenner, in 1980.

The Sarasota Chalk festival was held for the first time in 2007 and by 2010 it was a big enough event to become the United States’ first international street painting festival. Artists from across the globe were invited to participate, and each year since 2010 the festival has been given a unique theme. Previous themes include Halloween, Pavement Art through the Ages, Circus City USA, Legacy of Valor, Extinct and Endangered Species, and Eat Drink and Be Merry!

The Chalk Festival welcomes street artists of all ages from all over the world, from children and students to the elderly; from professional artists to beginners, with all applications to participate in creating art approved. Volunteers strive to raise donations for scholarships to allow artists from all walks of life to participate. Hundreds of artists create masterpieces in urban art with the pavement and roadway as their canvas and chalk as their medium.


The 2016 Sarasota Chalk Festival will be held November 11-14 at the Venice Airport Fairgrounds in Florida. Theme is yet to be announced – so stay tuned!

For more great examples of Chalk Street Art check out Michael Macaulay Street Art Gallery.


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