Arts and Culture

A cyclops Zamboni teaches a lesson about the ephemeral nature of chalk art

At a preview yesterday for the upcoming Denver Chalk Art Festival, artist Kyle Banister got a reminder of what it means to be a chalk artist. At ten years, the festival may be long-lived -- but the art it celebrates is ephemeral. Banister's piece, which he worked on with Southwest Airlines employees and students from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, took four hours to complete.

Ten minutes after it was done, it was gone. Erased by the city's "cyclops Zamboni."

This wasn't the first time Banister had seen his work come to an abrupt end. While most artists would be horrified to see their art washed away by a one-eyed Zamboni minutes after completion, Banister says that's all part of the temporary nature of chalk art.

"I honestly don't mind," he says. "People would start walking across it, anyway. Chalk art never lasts for long. You get as many photos as possible, you get to interact and have fun while you're doing it, and it's a learning experience -- the more chances I get to do it and learn from it, the better."

Banister and other chalk artists had produced the pieces on 17th Avenue in front of the Oxford Hotel yesterday morning to kick off a celebration of the Denver Chalk Art Festival. Yesterday afternoon, Banister posted a photo of a Zamboni erasing his masterpiece, noting that the city had cleaned it up so that people wouldn't walk into the street to look at it. He seemed disappointed -- but he wasn't, Banister says now.

"That's all coordinated ahead of time," he says. "I wasn't disappointed, really. In Italy, chalk artists wait a week to get a turn at their spot, and then they have to wash it off that night themselves, so it's ready for the next artist in the morning. So we don't have it so bad."

Banister says he enjoyed yesterday's yesterday: "It was a good time, and we had a lot of fun. Everyone helped and we're all getting excited about the Chalk Festival."

Banister and about 200 other artists will be participating in the Denver Chalk Art Festival, set for June 2 and 3; it will be centered on Larimer Square, but reach out for four blocks. The artists will all spend hours working on the masterpieces they've been planning for months -- and then, again, those pieces will be washed away. Dust to dust.

For more information about the upcoming Denver Chalk Art Festival, visit the web page.

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Tiffany Fitzgerald