Tenth annual Denver Chalk Artist Festival kicks off this weekend

"Summer" (originally by Alphonse Mucha), by Dawn Morrison Wagner
"Summer" (originally by Alphonse Mucha), by Dawn Morrison Wagner

The streets of Larimer Square and the surrounding area will lose their monotone drab as over 200 artists take part in the 10th annual Denver Chalk Art Festival this weekend. The Denver Chalk Festival not only aims celebrate the history of it's own conception, but also the history of chalk art, or street painting, itself.

Original street painters were called "madonnari," because of their propensity to draw depictions of the Madonna. This year's festival features six madonnari, or street painting masters, including California artist Dawn Morrison Wagner, who aside from creating traditional pieces, also takes a unique twist on the classical style.

"I like drawing beautiful portraits of women, either the Madonna, or portraits that reflect different art periods, like neoclassical, renaissance, or art deco," she explains.

Last year, Wagner painted a chalk replica of Alphonse Mucha's painting "Summer." The portrait (pictured above) certainly follows Wagner's theme of depicting a feminine portrait from a specified time period, in this case Art Deco. Although she won't give away what piece she'll be painting before the festival, Wagner says that this year's portrait will also be Art Deco, but she'll be breaking out of one of her normal patterns.

"This year I have decided to do an American artist," says Wagner. "I've always chosen English, Italian, French, and Czech, as in the case of Mucha. I'm excited and it feels like something I want to do. I went back and forth between a few pieces, but I'll be staring at it for a few days, so I have to love it."

Wagner's 24 years of experience earn her the featured spot at the festival, and she looks forward to the perks -- including a larger space and the ability to decide her location. Wagner says she's been anticipating being a part of the anniversary celebration this year because Denver has become special to her.

"I absolutely love Larimer Square and all the people," she says. "Everybody is so super friendly at this festival. I love that people recognize me. It's so neat, and coming from California, where there are a lot of festivals, just being here and having people thank you me for coming out -- it's really special. Denver always puts on a wonderful festival."

Wagner has participated in every Denver Chalk Art Festival, and she says the atmosphere hasn't changed, but the size has. (See photos from last year.)

"I love how big it's gotten I remember when two of the original organizers talked to me and were just getting it started," she says. "It's grown. They've always done a nice job, and treated us well and had a nice surfaces. It seems like the festival is really important to them and to the city."

The Chalk Art Festival takes place at Larimer Square this Saturday, June 2, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., and Sunday, June 3, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit the Denver Chalk Art Festival web page.

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