Surrounding the UW-Eau Claire campus mall this weekend were hundreds of people creating works of art with a somewhat nostalgic medium — sidewalk chalk.
Nearly 200 artists gathered at Chalkfest Saturday to fill their own sidewalk square with a design of their choosing. The event, hosted by UW-Eau Claire and Volume One, is in its 11th year this summer.
Some participants drew by themselves, and others took on the challenge with a partner or two. Some people came with friends, others with family. Occasionally, artists had earbuds in and kept their eyes locked on their work. Others talked with their friends, family and onlookers as they passed by.
Over the course of the day, UW-Eau Claire’s sidewalks became filled with animals, portraits, cartoon and comic book characters and music-related imagery.
As the artists were hard at work Saturday morning, music was playing, community members were admiring the art and participants were wiping away chalk residue on the grass, rags, or even their own skin.
Rebecca Sands attended the event with her young daughter, Reagan Carey, who was covered head to toe in blue chalk by the time she finished her masterpiece. Carey designed her piece of the sidewalk as an ocean with a whale jumping out of it.
“I love seeing animals jump out of the water,” Carey said of her inspiration for the piece.
Her section of sidewalk was surrounded by a few blue footprints, courtesy of her blue ocean.
The mother-daughter duo spectated Chalkfest last year and decided to try their hand at chalk art this summer.
Sands, who had spots of dark gray chalk on her hands and arms, drew an elephant head due to her love of wildlife. She’s mastered drawing elephant skin using pencil, she said, so she thought she’d give it a try using chalk.
Farther away, another family of chalk artists were busy working on their sidewalk squares. Patrice Winsand, of Eau Claire, brought her daughters Kamryn and Kourtney along for the ride. Patrice was participating in her eighth year of Chalkfest, where she has drawn an eclectic array of subjects, including her children as fairies, koi fish and — her favorite — a monster coming out of the sidewalk.
“That was the funnest,” she said. “My kids thought I should do that again this year.”
This year, Patrice drew Snoopy from the Peanuts comics laying on top of his dog house with her version of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in the background. Her daughters were drawing characters from Beauty and the Beast and a mermaid.
In Chalkfest’s 11 years, the event has grown. It used to be held in Wilson Park, until it was moved to the university for more space. Now, Chalkfest has food trucks, music and “chalk off” competitions throughout the day.
Paul Butrymowicz, UW-Eau Claire’s Assistant Director for Activities, Involvement and Leadership, helped organize the event. They sold out their 177 sidewalk squares by Monday, he said, and they had some “overflow squares” for those who wanted to register Saturday morning.
Butrymowicz said he enjoys working with all the people, but also the overall energy the event brings to Eau Claire.
“It’s a hallmark of Eau Claire,” he said. “Chalkfest is an extension of Eau Claire’s progressive attitude.”