Chalk art takes over Waterfront DriveChalk art on the sidewalks of Two Harbors won out over wolves for a family from Minneapolis last weekend.
By: John Lundy for the Lake County News-Chronicle, Lake County News Chronicle
Chalk art on the sidewalks of Two Harbors won out over wolves for a family from Minneapolis last weekend.
Bruce Wright and Janet Parker enjoyed a long-weekend camping trip Friday through Monday at Gooseberry Falls State Park with their children Adam, 16, and Liah, 11. Their plan had been to spend Saturday at the International Wolf Center near Ely. But vacations should be spontaneous, Parker said, and when the family paid a visit to Two Harbors’ 3M Dwan Museum (aka the Sandpaper Museum), they changed their plans.
They noticed Waterfront Drive was blocked off for “Chalk.o.Lot,” the city’s first sidewalk chalk festival, at Thomas Owens Park. The event was the brainchild of the Two Harbors Arts and Beautification Committee, formed a few years ago, said Michelle Ronning, co-chairman of the committee and organizer of the chalk festival. It was inspired by a similar event in her hometown of Wausau, Wis., which just had its ninth annual sidewalk chalk festival this summer.
“They’ve been watching their city grow and bringing in thousands of visitors and hundreds of artists,” Ronning explained.
The originator of that event was Mort McBain, now retired as Marathon County administrator, whose sidewalk art career started in the 1960s when he was bumming around Europe. The Two Harbors group hired McBain to help get their festival started, and he brought a few fellow Wausau chalk artists with him for the weekend.
McBain led two chalk art clinics on Friday, and he and his comrades started their artwork, each taking a square of the sidewalk. That’s what the Wright family saw going on when their Saturday plans changed. Liah thought creating sidewalk art would be way cooler than watching wolves.
“She will decide she wants to do something, and then everybody gets behind it,” her dad said.
By the time the Wrights arrived on Saturday, a lot of art already was happening. About 20 people registered, Ronning said. For $15, each was entitled to a T-shirt, a box of 48 pastel chalks and other equipment, as well as 5 feet by 10 feet of sidewalk adjacent to Waterfront Drive. The Wausau invitees also were using those spaces.
A block of the street was available for free-form chalk art similar to what you might do on the sidewalk at home. It included the opportunity for children and adults to have chalk lines drawn around their bodies, so that by noon on Saturday it looks as though a grisly crime had occurred in Two Harbors.
On the sidewalk, several of the artists were working from prints. McBain was creating a Madonna and Child based on a Raphael. He always does a Madonna and Child, the artist said, because sidewalk art originated during the Renaissance in Italy with artists creating Madonnas outside of cathedrals. McBain creates a grid on the sidewalk, sketches in his art and then
Michelle Ronning, her husband Larry Ronning, and McBain’s granddaughter Shelby Prahl, 8, were re-creating a Picasso, and Mike Tomber of Thomas Lake was working on R Crumb’s “Keep on Truckin’.”
Others were trying original art. Someone had depicted the Two Harbors lighthouse. Meng Vang, 24, of Wausau created the face of a woman with stunning eyes and multicolored hair that seemed to be one of the most photographed works.
Tirzah Petersen, 16, of Two Harbors was chalking a character of her own creation, Eldest Kitsune, based on her love of Japanese animation. She was working freehand, Petersen said.
“I never really liked working with grids,” she said.
Brett Archer, principal of Two Harbors High School, was depicting a Lake Superior freighter from his mind’s eye, while daughters Sarah, 10, and Katie, 12, worked from prints.
Archer said he wasn’t worried about hearing from any student critics.
“We tell kids all the time to try new things,” he said. “So if they come down and give me a hard time, I’ll just give them the old: ‘Hey, I’m trying something new. Where’s your drawing?’ ”
It was a picture-perfect day on Saturday, but someday the inevitable will occur. It will rain.
“This you have to get used to it washing away,” said Miranda Orlikowski, 19, of Wausau, who was depicting the singer Marina and the Diamonds. “The other stuff you can keep.”
The Wrights picked a unique source for their chalk art. They took a picture of the flowers in a planter in a corner of the park. Liah was working with purple chalk while Adam filled in with a heavy brown. Both said the thought of the finished work washing away didn’t bother them.
“We’ll take lots of pictures,” their mom said.