Log in Subscribe

Chalk Festival Returns for 6th Season November 13-18


SARASOTA – The Sarasota Chalk Festival returns for a 6th year with activities beginning Wednesday and running through November 18. This year's event will celebrate the theme Legacy of Valor. Through the rich cultural traditions of street painting and the eyes of the participating artists, the festival will honor veterans, inspire patriotism, and embrace freedom in order to create the ‘awe-inspiring’ event this international festival has come to represent.

The festival is held in Burns Square, in downtown Sarasota and includes work from some of the most renowned chalk artists in the world. As many as 500 artists will perform during the six-day festival. Featured artists are the street painters who turn South Pineapple Avenue into a museum in motion, covering every inch of the road with oversized masterpieces based on the festival theme. On average, they labor on their hands and knees for 36 hours, using pastel chalk as their medium and the road surface as their canvas.


Market value of the artwork, which either naturally fades away or is washed away, is estimated at around three million dollars. The founder of the festival, Denise Kowal, points out, “Nobody’s walking away with a piece of the road, however, the real value of this performance art is creating lasting memories that enrich lives through a creative process.” 

The festival attracts more than 200,000 visitors who are the pivotal aspect of its success. “It is the visitor, the observer, before whom the hundreds of individually creative ideas unfold, generating a synergy among all who are present—that creates the performance,” said Kowal.

In order to produce the festival, the nonprofit, which became a 501(c)(3) in 2010, must raise more than $400,000 in cash each year and secure another million dollars of in-kind services and products. The festival is estimated to have a $10,000,000 dollar economic impact on the community. The city of Sarasota, the largest benefactor of the festival, waived $1,400 of the more than $10,000 of city fees the festival will incur this year. Sarasota County, through the tourist development tax, awarded a grant to the festival for $49,000.

“All our revenues go to the nuts and bolts of the festival such as airfare, lodging, and supplies for our artists, as well as fees, insurance, and security. It truly is a community event that has support from the businesses that provide in-kind services and our artists, who contribute their talent as well. We still have many needs, however. For example, we are still trying to raise enough funds for this year. Except for our new administrative position, the rest of the organization—including me—consists of volunteers,” states Kowal. 

Valentina Sforzini

Even though the festival stopped issuing a call to artists three years ago, they receive more than 1000 new artist applications a year from around the world. Kowal selects approximately 500 to participate, which includes those who will be supported by dozens of partnerships with other nonprofits, businesses, and schools. Many of the artists are local, but most come from communities throughout Florida, just about every state in the U.S., and 17 other countries.

“Because of our theme this year we are inviting a dozen veterans, who are artists, to join us to learn the art of street painting and to create their own paintings at the festival,” says Kowal.

On October 29, the New York Times listed the Sarasota Chalk Festival as among the intelligent choices in the world for travel this year.

Schedule of events and note of some featured artists:

November 11

The Sarasota Chalk Festival will have a float in the Veterans Day parade along Main Street.

November 13, 7 p.m. (show runs November 15 – 24):

At a VIP Preview of the ‘Re-Imagining Sarasota Chalk Artists’ art show at the Ice House, on Tenth Street, the public will be able to view studio work by the chalk festival artists for the first time and they will have an opportunity to purchase original artworks by them—that can be taken home. This will be a ticketed event for donors.

November 13-17, all day:

Large 3-D interactive street paintings will be developing in Burns Square, on S. Pineapple Avenue between Laurel Street and Selby Lane. These artists include Eduardo Kobra, Leon Keer, and Tracy Lee Stum.

November 14, 5 p.m.:

Opening Reception for ‘Re-imagining Sarasota Chalk Artists’ at the Ice House, Tenth Street – all of the Sarasota Chalk artists will be present and their artworks will remain on sale. This will be a ticketed event open to the public, with tickets available in advance or at the door.

November 15-17, all day:

2-D street painters will turn S. Pineapple Avenue between S. Orange Avenue and Dolphin Street into a museum in motion as they create oversized masterpieces in chalk on the road surface.

November 16-17, all day:

Veteran artists will create their own chalk drawings for the first time, under the instruction of Lori Escalera, on S. Pineapple Avenue between Ringling Boulevard and Lemon Avenue.

Ceremonial interactive chalking with Mark Wagner will occur on S. Pineapple Avenue between Ringling Boulevard and Lemon Avenue.

The Student Chalk Block is provided for grades 7-12, S. Pineapple Avenue between State Street and Main Street.

The Children’s Chalk Block for the young and young at heart, N. Pineapple Avenue will be at Five Points Park between Main Street and First Street.

‘Thoughtful Reflection’ is a silent reflection and expression area, at S. Pineapple Avenue between Lemon Avenue and State Street.

November 16 special events are scheduled at:

4:30 p.m. — a ceremony at the ‘Thoughtful Reflection’ and the playing of Taps, S. Pineapple Avenue near First Church

5:30 p.m. — dinner for veterans and their families, S. Pineapple Avenue and State Street

7-11 p.m. — a USO-style show and dance with Les McCurdy emceeing, public welcome, S. Pineapple Avenue and State Street

November 17, 7 p.m.
Closing Party for the Sarasota Chalk Festival will be held at the Ice House, Tenth Street.

November 18, all day
Viewing day of completed artwork in Burns Square, where the road remains closed.


No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.