This year’s Summer on the Streets — Firehouse Art Center’s ongoing series that features live music, theatrical performances, film screenings, an art market and more — has been going strong since May when it launched The Art of Food.
“I have loved the consistency of the event,” said Elaine Waterman, executive director at Firehouse Art Center. “I think that it is fun having something going on every weekend downtown. We have a lot of repeat customers coming to check out the new vendors or just coming to get their face painted and to dance with the live music. I have also been loving all the yummy food from the food trucks.”
Saturday, Longmont’s Chalkmont — where artists transform asphalt into temporary works of art — coincides with the popular summer series, making for a full day of community and creative expression. The works will appear near Longmont Public Library Pavilion, between 4-8 p.m.
While chalk was a staple in classrooms prior to the invention of dry-erase boards, now it is often used as a medium to create attention-grabbing street art. From works rich with illusions that capture a sense of depth to pieces that appeal to one’s inner child, designs by 10 artists will soon grace the ground.
Participating again will be artist Jon Fukuda, a creative who has captivated judges and onlookers with his realistic work of koi and betta fish that appear to be floating on the surface of water.
“I love the people coming by and cheering me on, telling me my work is their favorite, even if they’re just saying it… that kind of feedback you never get privately working on a piece,” Fukuda said.
Creating in public, away from a serene studio space, isn’t without its challenges.
“Some things are annoying, like motorists that insist on reviving loudly pumping exhaust onto the sidewalk, that’s always hard to deal with, but I think being in the breezeways will help get us further away,” Fukuda said.
For Saturday’s design, Fukuda is still brainstorming.
“I haven’t picked my subject for this one yet, but I seem to always do something nature/animal inspired,” Fukuda said, “so I’ll likely be keeping up that tradition. I am collaborating with a local writer on a book that I’m illustrating some owls for, so that could work nicely.”
Artists have total creative freedom over what they can create at this year’s Chalkmont.
“There is no prompt, but the artist can work with the sponsor to create a business-inspired piece if they choose to,” Waterman said. “I know that Snarkington’s is getting a cat-themed piece based on their cat mascot.”
Completed pieces will be judged by professionals.
“The work is judged based on composition, creativity, ability with medium and originality,” Waterman said.
Spectators also get a vote. The People’s Choice winner will go to the artist with the most “likes” on the ArtWalk Longmont’s Facebook page, where all works will be featured.
Winners for the People’s Choice will be announced on Sept. 10 at the ArtWalk on Main. The winners will receive a $100 gift card sponsored by ArtWalk Longmont, LDDA and the Firehouse Art Center.
Lisa Evans, who has participated in previous chalk art festivals throughout the Front Range, will create a mermaid for this year’s Chalkmont.
“As much as I enjoy inspiring others, I feel the same inspiration seeing what the other artists create,” Evans said. “I’m always in awe.”
Like Fukuda, she feeds off the positive feedback given by attendees.
“It is fun to inspire and spark imagination,” Evans said. “I love when children feel compelled to pick up chalk next to me and create for themselves. No better place to go than in their imagination — uninhibited creativity.”
Participating artists aren’t the only ones who will be able to create on Saturday. A large-scale, chalk-by-numbers mural will be made by attendees who wish to get in on the action.
“We did this kind of mural for the Art of Food and artists of all ages loved it,” Waterman said.
First-time participant Megan LeSage — a visual arts teacher at Frederick High School — is excited about exploring a new medium.
“I’m looking forward to putting myself out there and trying something I’ve never formally done before,” LeSage said. “I’ve learned from past experiences with public art — Longmont’s Shock Art program — just how kind and interesting passersby can be. In the past, I’ve always received positive feedback and have had friendly, meaningful interactions with those who choose to engage.”
LeSage, who has shown artwork previously at Firehouse, is currently inspired by a macabre wordsmith of the 19th century.
“This summer, I started a new series called ‘Crimson and Corvids,’ because I have been super into using alliteration as inspiration lately,” LeSage said. “There are three paintings in the series, each with one raven, and I will be titling them ‘Edgar,’ ‘Allan’ and ‘Poe’ because I love scary stories — and October is just around the corner. My design for Chalkmont will feature my design for ‘Poe,’ which I am currently still working on painting at home. It will be fun to test out my design in chalk form.”
LeSage’s desire to pick up chalk this year matches the same sentiment she brings to the classroom.
“I encourage my students to try new things and take artistic risks because that’s how you grow and discover what you love in the world of art, so I am trying to model good artistic behavior by going outside my comfort zone and trying something new,” LeSage said.
Witnessing these creations evolve in nontraditional venues reminds onlookers about the magic and progress that can flourish with a little imagination.
“My favorite part is seeing the whole progression from an empty sidewalk to a finished artwork,” Waterman said.