These 3D Pavement Paintings Take Chalk Art to a New Level

The pavement becomes a playground at the Sarasota Chalk Festival

American artist Lisa Gaither works on a chalk creation. Sarasota Chalk Festival
Artist: Everardo Galvez Sarasota Chalk Festival
Raul Rincon (Gallardo Domenzain, Mexico) Sarasota Chalk Festival
A gummi bear on the prowl was the creation of Dutch artist Leon Keer Sarasota Chalk Festival
Brazilian chalk artist Eduardo Kobra cooked up a multicolored bowl of art for the festival Sarasota Chalk Festival
Bears and waterfalls come to life at the Sarasota Chalk Festival thanks to Bosnian artist Kerim Musanovic. Kerim Musanovic
Simona Lanfridi, who made this chalk creation, came to the festival from Sofia, Italy. Ed Sandbach
Hungry? Sorry, this picnic by Nate Baranowski is made of chalk. Leslie Chebak
This roundup came to the festival courtesy of American artist Katie Runde. Eric Ross
"Poached Hunter" by Diane Renee. David Taylor
"Captain Tony's Saloon," a collaborative work by American artists Cynthia Kostylo, Raziah Roushan and Cecelia Linayo Ed Sandbach
Cuong Nguyen, an artist from Vietnam, displays his chalk art. Ed Sandbach
This gigantic piece of chalk art was created by dozens of artists in attempt to snag a Guinness World Record for Largest Anamorphic Pavement Art. David Taylor
Festivalgoers are served up on a silver platter in a chalk painting by Dutch artist Remko van Schalk Sarasota Chalk Festival

Painters have canvases. Graffiti artists have walls. But a certain subset of artists finds the pavement beneath their feet more inspiring than anything at eye level. Last weekend, hundreds of chalk artists from around the world made the pavement their playground at the Sarasota Chalk Festival in Venice, Florida.

Since 2007, the small sun-kissed community has hosted pavement artists from all around the world. Over the years, it's grown from a community event into an international arts festival complete with music, dance, storytelling and other art. But the real attraction are the chalk artists—people who bend over the pavement with pastel chalk and construct both traditional murals and spectacular 3D masterpieces. The free festival is open to both beginners and professionals, all of whom are encouraged to center their creations around a single theme.

Denise Kowal, who founded the festival, tells that this year's theme, "Eat, Drink and Be Merry," gave her some second thoughts. "I started to question myself," she says. "It was a relief to see more than soda, shakes and candy." With entries portraying everything from gummy bears gone bad to a grandma serving pie, there was a piece of art for every appetite. The festival's unequivocal showstopper, an enormous 3D Bacchus created by scores of artists, was made in an attempt to beat the festival's own Guinness World Record for Largest Anamorphic Pavement Art.

Visitors flock to the festival—this year, an estimated 200,000 guests wended their way around the extensive festival grounds over the course of eight days. They weren't the only ones to ooh and ahh over the artwork. Kowal says that she was repeatedly approached by artists, some of whom had been in Venice for two weeks to attend master classes and workshops and who relished the chance to interact with the public and practice their craft alongside some of the art form's greats. "Artists told me they felt their lives had been profoundly changed," says Kowal. Chalk it up to the redemptive power of a piece of pavement and a few pastels.

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