Provo chalk-art festival benefits children with autism (+photos)

Published: Friday, Sept. 13 2013 5:50 p.m. MDT

Kenyon Kennard of Provo, 16, works on the details of his chalk drawing at Chalk The Block at The Shops at Riverwoods in Provo on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. The Shops at Riverwoods is partnering with Clear Horizons Academy for the chalk art show, and the proceeds from the event will support Clear Horizons efforts to build brighter futures for children with autism. The main Chalk The Block festival will be Friday, Sept. 13, and Saturday, Sept. 14, from 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

PROVO — Three days, a piece of pavement and a lot of chalk is what 284 artists are using this weekend to create 161 masterpieces.

The second annual “Chalk the Block” festival features local artists and four professionals who fill The Shops at Riverwoods parking spaces with big and vibrant chalk art.

All proceeds from the artist fees, booth fees and sponsorships will go to Clear Horizons Academy, a local school for children with moderate to severe autism.

Carol Walker, assistant development director at Clear Horizons Academy, is passionate about the event and said she appreciates the help for the 60 students at the academy.

“The autism rates nationally are 1 in 88, and in Utah they’re 1 in 47, so there’s a great need for the services that we offer,” Walker said. “This (event) is so much help for us. The money’s really helpful, but the recognition and visibility are so important.”

Parents of students at the school are volunteering at the event to raise awareness of autism and to support the school. Emily Bowen has a 6-year-old boy with moderate autism at the academy.

“This school has changed our lives,” Bowen said. “Being able to drop him off in the mornings and know that he’s safe and know that he’s in the best hands, second to mine, I’d do anything for this school.”

Arlene Colman’s 8-year-old son, Fawkes, has been at Clear Horizons Academy for six years now. She said having a child with autism is an adventure and a roller coaster. Some days are hard days and it’s difficult to do typical family things.

“But then he’s a really great kid,” Colman said. “When he smiles at you, the light that comes out of his eyes is just pure joy."

Colman said she is happy to do something for the school because it has done so much for her and her son.

This year’s theme is “Remember When,” and one of eight prizes goes to whoever best represents the theme in a chalk painting. Artists must finish by 3 p.m. on Saturday for judging, and then students from Clear Horizons Academy will help hand out prizes at 6 p.m.

Chalk artists may find themselves in a bit of a time crunch, as the weather hasn’t been cooperating. Intermittent rain has sent artists scrambling to cover their work before it washes away. McKell Law, marketing director and events coordinator for The Shops at Riverwoods, said everyone has been helping each other, and the artists are still having fun.

“Rain or shine we’re here and the artists are here chalking, and we’re having a great time,” Law said.

Regardless of the weather, the festival features a high caliber of chalk art from the professionals and from locals.

“Part of the excitement is that these are one-of-a-kind pieces,” said Sheri Duffy, manager of Zions Mercantile and event volunteer. “Our artists like it washed off on Monday, so it exists and then it’s gone, and they like that.”

Julie Kirk-Purcell got hooked on chalk art 21 years ago when she tried out a festival for fun. She has since chalked hundreds of pieces all over the world in places like Hong Kong, Oman, Thailand and Israel. This weekend she is creating a scene of Madagascar with baob trees, dog-sized bats and lemurs — the favorite animal that sparked the idea.

“I think I’ve always been drawn to large work that’s really impacting,” Kirk-Purcell said. “I also like the fact that it’s temporary and that you can try out new things and learn different processes.”

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