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Chalk Art Festival
Artist Lee Jones works on a piece at 2004 festival. Jones will return this year.

Remember the scene in "Mary Poppins" where Burt uses chalk to draw landscapes on the sidewalk, and the images look so realistic that the pictures come to life . . . with the help of a little magic?

On Friday and Saturday, chalk drawings will come to life in Salt Lake City — with a different kind of magic — as artists from all over the valley come to participate in the Utah Foster Care Foundation's third annual Chalk Art Festival.

This year's festival features master artist Lee Jones from Orlando, Fla., and last year's first-prize winner, Ruby Chacon from Salt Lake City — both of whom say that interaction with the public is their favorite part of street painting. "Chalk art is the neatest thing I've ever done," said Jones, "I'm talking to people the whole time I'm chalking."

Street painting is a lot different from working in a studio, said Chacon. You have to think about what the audience will see long before the project is finished. "I develop a certain area — like the eyes — and work my way out."

This is Jones' second year as the festival's master artist. Last year's piece featured the faces of five ethnically diverse children, with the logo "Every Child Deserves a Family." "This year I've been asked to do a giraffe family," said Jones, because, "A foster parent is someone to look up to."

"We wanted a signature event so that we could help spread the word about foster care," said Deborah Lindner, festival organizer and community-relations coordinator for the Utah Foster Care Foundation. In Utah there are approximately 2,000 children in foster care.

Of the estimated 10,000 people who have attended the festival since its inception in 2003, at least 50 families have contacted the Utah Foster Care Foundation for more information on how to become foster parents. And while this number may seem small, it's impressive to Lindner.

Deciding to become a foster parent is a big decision, and the process usually lasts a year before a family is fully ready to take on the responsibility, she explained. "It needs to be the right fit."

The festival will offer information about foster care to interested families, and foster-care representatives will be available to share experiences and answer questions.

Lindner expects between 50 and 75 artists — mostly amateurs — to participate in the festival. Students from Matheson Junior High School and Alta High School will also produce works of art.

Local businesses and individuals will sponsor each of the chalk squares. The proceeds from these donations will benefit the foundation's Wishing Well Fund. This fund provides financial support so that the "wishes" of children in foster care can come true. Some of the wishes range from guitar lessons to prom dresses to language lessons (to learn English as a second language).

For many of the artists, the process of creating is more important than the finished work. "This is performance art for Ruby and Lee," said Lindner, who invites families to come early and watch the images evolve from sketches to masterpieces.

"People are pretty much blown away by the art," she said. "They can't believe it's chalk. It looks like an artist's canvas."

With all of the crazy weather Salt Lake has experienced lately, you might wonder if the chalk images will end up like those in "Mary Poppins" — gooey puddles of indistinguishable figures.

But Lindner says not to worry. Most of the images survive the rain and have to be power-washed off. "The festival will go on, rain or shine."

If you go . . .

What: Utah Foster Care Foundation Chalk Art Festival

Where: The Gateway, downtown Salt Lake City

When: Friday, 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.

How much: Free

Phone: 994-5205

Web site: www.utahfostercare.org

E-mail: [email protected]