San Antonio artists, community members come together to decorate sidewalks, pavement

7-year-old June Gonzalez has drawn flowers in chalk before, but never more so than this weekend.

By late Saturday morning, she had drawn 17 along a sidewalk at the Carver Library and had planned more. The colorful artwork – including a red because it’s one of his favorite colors – formed the top of the mural his father, local artist Raul Rene Gonzalez, created for the 18th annual Chalk It Up event.

To evoke this year’s theme “The Spirit of San Antonio,” Gonzalez wrote the word “community” in the space provided for his work and filled in the letters with his own chalk flowers.

Artpace, a non-profit artist residency program, hosts the Chalk It Up event every year. It had been held in downtown San Antonio for 16 years. But to avoid large crowds amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he has moved to city libraries for 2020 and this year, Artpace communications manager Casie Lomeli said.

Gonzalez’s large chalk mural covering several parking spaces was one of 20 drawn on the sidewalks and sidewalks of 10 separate libraries, one in each city council district.

“Downtown is awesome and it’s so much fun, but expanding into every neighborhood in City Council takes Chalk It Up to people and places that may never have heard of it before,” Lomeli said. “I think that definitely makes him more accessible.”

Along with the artists’ murals, Artpace had designated spaces where community members could take a piece of chalk and contribute their own work.

At the Carver Library, Frances Garza, 38, drew sunflowers on a sidewalk alongside her 11-year-old daughter, Natalie, and her 6-year-old son, Adam. The family has been going Chalk It Up for four years. Garza, a teacher at Foster Elementary School who is working on setting up an art club there, said she was happy the murals were spread across different libraries as they offered a less crowded and safer to enjoy the event.

Eris Carvajal and Yasu Chavez, 17, said Saturday was their first appearance at Chalk It Up. The two were drawing Halloween-themed pictures and other artwork at the Landa Library on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s really good since we distance ourselves socially but we still have fun,” said Chavez.

Full-time artist Kat Cadena, 27, said she always went to Chalk It Up when she was growing up. It was his first year as a featured artist in the program. His mural was contained in a parking space at the Landa Library.

Cadena said that this year’s theme “The Spirit of San Antonio” reminded her of the literal minds of people who lived in the area years ago, so she drew the face of a native woman as one. ‘spirit.

Nineteen of the 20 murals created on Saturday were done by established San Antonio artists, including Gonzalez and Cadena. Nine high school students from Artpace’s Teen Council created the other.

The Teen Council is a nine-month, paid leadership development program that Artpace Education Coordinator Ashley Mireles says aims to make students advocates for contemporary art.

Artpace pays $ 520 to each of the artists presented for their work. Event sponsorships help make Chalk It Up the second largest fundraising event for Artpace, behind the group’s annual gala in most years.

“Chalk It Up is a very important event for a city,” said Cadena.

She motioned to the high school students from the Teen Council who were working next to her. “These kids are learning to collaborate with each other to create a public work of art even though it is fleeting, it will disappear when it rains.

“It’s a really important learning experience for the community to collaborate together and work in the same space and practice appreciating each other. “

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Jennifer Schuman

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