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Chalk Art Festival brings out community

By Staff | Aug 12, 2011

Mary-Anna Ronquillo, of Oak Island, N.C., creates a Koi Fish Pond on King Street at the Chalk Art Festival Aug. 7. (Ogden Newspapers photo by Ron Agnir)

More than two dozen artists made the streets, sidewalks and asphalt of Shepherdstown their canvas Aug. 7 during the town’s first Chalk Art Festival.

About 25 artists, who work in various mediums, were invited to take part and register for the festival, proceeds from which will benefit two local nonprofit organizations called The Children’s Tree House and CraftWorks at Cool Spring.

The all-day event featured live chalk art being created throughout the town, including a 40-foot mural on King Street, as well as arts and crafts vendors and live musical performances. There also was plenty of activities for children, including a moonbounce, face painting, a kids craft area, T-shirt making as well as other activities.

“We’re doing this in part just to have people come out and enjoy a day of art and enjoy watching art come alive,” CraftWorks Executive Director David Lillard said.

CraftWorks at Cool Spring is a nonprofit art and environmental education organization located on 81 acres of land south of Charles Town.

“We do art and crafts education programs for people of all abilities and all ages,” Lillard said. “We’re there to encourage people to embrace that creative side, enjoy it and explore it throughout their lives.”

The Children’s Tree House, the second benefactor of Sunday’s festival, is a nonprofit, nature-based child development center located at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown.

“We teach all the children on all kinds of activities and things that they can do to help the environment and preserve nature,” said Nickie Weller, director of the Children’s Tree House.

Anne Rule-Thompson, a member of the Children’s Tree House’s parent committee, came up with the idea for the festival after seeing similar events in other areas. Some of the children who attend CraftWorks also attend the Children’s Tree House, which is why the two organizations decided to partner together.

“We both have the same mission – connecting kids with nature and the arts,” Weller said. “We’re very pleased with all the turnout and the support from town. It’s been great.”

Lillard described the turnout as “amazing,” stating that hundreds of people had already attended the festival by mid-afternoon. Part of the event’s purpose was to let people enjoy the experience of how art is made in an interesting and creative way.

“We were looking for something that would really engage everybody in learning about how art is created and also to give another way for kids to just to come out and create something,” Lillard said. “Really, for a first-year event, we are really pretty blown away.”

Among the artists invited to attend the festival was David Heatwole, of Martinsburg, who normally works in acrylic and oil painting. He is best known for a mural of Vincent Van Gogh made out of bottle caps that was displayed in Martinsburg.

“It’s harder than it looks,” Heatwole, fingers sore to the bone, said of his first experience in chalk art.

He was pleased with the organization of the event, as well as the various attendees.

“It’s amazing. It really is. I haven’t been able to see anybody else at work, but I mean it’s beautiful,” he said. “You go to a lot of festivals where you don’t have this much variety. I think the planners did a great job.”

Meanwhile, illustrator and muralist Tim Knepp, together with decorative painter Sandy Payne, both from Northern Virginia, were busy Sunday crafting one of the event’s larger murals.

“We don’t do this regularly. This is something special to do,” Payne said. “I think it’s fantastic. This is the first year, and I think it’s going to get better and bigger next year.”

Another artist, Mary-Anna Ronquillo, a friend of an event organizer, traveled all the way from her home in North Carolina, about a nine-hour trek, to be a part of the festival. A painter by trade, Sunday was her first foray into the chalk art medium.

“I think it’s awesome. I think there’s been a great turnout,” said Ronquillo, who also had a vendor booth at the festival.

Fellow artist Amy Childers, of Harpers Ferry, also was having a fun time trying her hand at the difficult and often arduous process of making a chalk mural. The last time she created such mural was as a 20-year-old art school student.

“It took hours and a ton of chalk, so I knew what I was getting into today. I think it’s great. … My kid’s here. He’s having a great time. We’ve run into a million people that we know, and I just feel good getting out and doing something fun,” Childers said.