One weekend a year, hoards of artists converge upon downtown Sacramento to create hundreds of temporary masterpieces. Their canvas: The sidewalk. Their tools: Chalk. Lots and lots of chalk. You guessed it folks, it’s time for Chalk It Up, Sacramento’s sidewalk chalk art and music festival. This Labor Day weekend (Sept. 5 to 7), marks the 25th anniversary of this gathering of local artists, musicians and community members at Fremont Park to create beautiful chalk art and a festival experience unlike any other.
“At 25 years, Chalk It Up is kind of its own force of nature. It’s just too beloved to ever go away,” executive director Jerry Perry recently told Submerge. “We often joke that even if we weren’t organizing it, the artists and public would still converge every year to create and watch the creation of the chalk art in Fremont Park!”
He’s probably right. Chalk It Up is wildly popular amongst Sacramentans, and the numbers prove it. Last year, the event drew a whopping 35,000 people over the course of the weekend. “It’s hard to believe there was a time that it didn’t exist,” Perry says of the fest. “And major props to the handful of artists back in the ‘90s that willed this event into being. What a wonderful gift and legacy they’ve passed on to us!”
To those uninitiated in the ways of Chalk It Up, it’s a free, three-day event where local artists are invited to use chalk to create colorful works of art on the sidewalks that encompass Fremont Park, located at 1515 Q Street. Many of the “squares” are sponsored by local businesses and organizations to raise money that benefits children’s art education and activities. Community squares are for anyone and everyone to chalk up. There is always a plethora of live music, food, a beer garden for those of drinking age, activities for the kiddos and so much more. Chalk It Up is truly a spectacle to behold, especially by the end of the weekend, when the artists are done with their squares. The artwork is often jaw-droppingly good, and every year it seems to get better and better. Just a few of last year’s highlights included an incredibly detailed Jimi Hendrix portrait by artist Julia Flippo for sponsor 101.5 K-HITS, a Maleficent-inspired piece by artist Missy for sponsor Isabella Corsetry, and (we’re obviously biased on this one) a Submerge-sponsored double square drawing of Beavis and Butthead sitting on their iconic pink couch by artist Raymond Roberts with help from his sons Michael and Alex.
Not to be outdone by their chalk wielding visual artist counterparts, local musicians are also well represented at Chalk It Up. At least 30 regional bands are set to perform at this year’s festival including The Brodys, Honyock, Kevin Seconds, Drop Dead Red, Wasco, Century Got Bars, The Ancient Sons, Mondo Deco, Anton Barbeau, The Phantom Jets and many others. Music runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. all three days!
For its 25th year, the organization’s goal is to give out 25 Chalk It Up youth art grants/scholarships. Whether it’s for art materials, musical equipment, speaker or guest artist fees, transportation for arts related field trips, attendance fees to performances, museums, classes, etc., Chalk It Up gives out mini-grants in amounts up to $500 for qualified educational activities that meet their criteria. “Art and music are such a crucial part of learning how to learn,” Perry says. “The introduction of art and music education into children’s lives actually programs the brain to more abstract thinking and comprehension. And then there’s the whole spiritual/soulful/emotional human aspect of art and music as an outlet and a language. To nurture such profound and moving forms of expression should be considered an essential building block if not the foundation in youth education. We do what we can through our youth art grants.”
For information on the three-day festival and to learn how to apply for Chalk It Up’s mini arts grants, visit Chalkitup.org.