Chalk It Up

Graffiti and tagging may be on the rise in Denver, but don't worry if you stumble upon dozens and dozens of artists scrawling all over the pavement in Larimer Square this weekend. They'll be taking part in Denver's first Italian street-painting festival, La Strada dell'Arte.

"Nothing like this has ever been done here," says Kirsten Becker, associate director of the Larimer Arts Association, organizer of the event. "You're going to see everything under the sun out there, from traditional Renaissance classics to very modern, crazy three-dimensional blocks."

Street painting originated in sixteenth-century Italy, and the artists were called "madonnari," after their practice of sketching the Madonna -- and we're not talking about the Material Girl.

This Saturday and Sunday, over one hundred artists -- from local students to professionals -- will take to Larimer Square's pavement on their hands and knees, armed only with pastel chalks and creative visions. "This event isn't about the final pieces," says Becker. "It's about the process, the interaction between artists and spectators."

"It's always a really friendly environment," agrees featured artist Dawn Morrison Wagner, an engineer from Thousand Oaks, California, who has participated in more than forty street-painting festivals. "It's such a fun way to interact and share with people, wandering around complimenting the artists and commenting on the pieces."

Younger artists can let their creative juices flow at the Kids Corner, where $5 will buy a two-foot-by-two-foot square and as much chalk as they need to draw to their hearts' content.

On Saturday night, Larimer Square will be transformed into a romantic Italian garden for the free Festa all'Alperto party, where guests can mingle with the artists and swing dance to live music by the Nostalgia Orchestra, a Vegas-style seventeen-piece band. "It's going to be a lot of fun for everyone," promises Becker. "I know that the street is going to look absolutely phenomenal."

But you'd better view the temporary masterpieces by sunset on Sunday, when the city will power-wash two full days of chalk, sweat -- and hopefully not too many tears -- down the drains of LoDo.

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Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn

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