Chalk it up to creativity

Chalk it up to creativity

Beacon Charter High School for the Arts students participate in the Providence Rotary Street Painting Festival in 2016. From left, are Evan Knudsen, Ethan Gottschalk, Alicia Byrne, Shane Perry, Diana Roman, Rushelle Jackson, Sydney DelFarno and Nevanysh Morraba.
Art festival showcases student artwork on an unusual canvas

UPDATE: The Woonsocket Chalk Art Festival has been postponed due to rain and will take place on Sunday, June 10, at River Island Art Park.

WOONSOCKET – Students will take to the streets this Saturday, May 19, for the city of Woonsocket’s first Chalk Art Festival, an outdoor celebration of student artwork that organizers hope might become an annual event.

The event is hosted by Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in collaboration with the office of Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and will include participation by students from city middle and high schools. According to Beacon and Founders Academy Supt. Michael Skeldon, the event grew out of the school’s participation in the Providence Rotary Street Painting Festival, an annual fall event hosted by the Rotary Club of Providence that students have attended for many years.

“Our team was down there last year and I was literally leaving one event to head down there to see them and the teacher who ran it called me to say, don’t bother, it’s rained out,” he said. “We had all these kids with these amazing designs that they had started putting together only to never be able to exhibit them.”

With this past fall’s event canceled due to rain, the school decided to hold its own event in the spring, reaching out to other schools to make the chalk festival a community event. Woonsocket High School, Woonsocket Middle School, Mount St. Charles Academy, Good Shepherd Catholic Regional School, Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center and Riverzedge Arts Project have all been invited to participate in what Skeldon anticipates will be a “friendly competition” between area schools.

“It’s a chance for Beacon to break the ice and find an event where we can get together with the other schools and the other youth organizations in the city,” he said.

At 9 a.m., student teams will gather at River Island Art Park on Bernon Street, where they will be assigned eight-by-eight-foot squares on which to create their artwork. Skeldon said the park, renamed an “art park” in 2015 to highlight its use for exhibiting local artwork, will be perfect for chalk drawing, which won’t actually take place in the street, but in the park’s cement skating rink.

“You can imagine writing with chalk on tar versus on a very smooth cement surface,” he said. “The surface at River Island Art Park is just smooth as glass, it’s going to be perfect for what they want to do on that day.”

Members of the public will be able to purchase tokens to vote on their favorite designs, with the funds, along with a $25 registration fee per team, going toward cash prizes for the student winners. Skeldon said the family-friendly event has also received support from the city and the office of Baldelli-Hunt, who assisted with organizing the day and providing use of the park.

“They’re going to provide any of the materials and the costs associated with that day, along with providing police and fire and preparing the park for us as well,” he said.

Also instrumental in organizing the event is Carolyn Moseley, the Beacon visual arts teacher who coordinates student involvement in the Providence festival and told The Breeze her students were looking forward to getting their designs out for public viewing and working alongside their peers.

“We just wanted to see if we could give these kids the opportunity to do it at the same kind of drawing scale that we do at the Providence Street Painting Festival,” she said. “It’s just a really great event, and I wanted my kids to still have that experience before the year ended.”

While the event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Skeldon recommended members of the public attend closer to lunchtime when student designs will begin to take shape. Beacon culinary arts students will be selling refreshments at the snack bar, and prizes will be awarded at the end of the day.

Organizers said they hope to continue the tradition and welcome schools from neighboring towns along with food trucks and other activities in future years.

“We’re starting off small this year and hopefully we can expand to more schools and just get the community involved as well,” said Moseley.