Main Street blocked off across Arts Campus Fort Wayne. Dozens of artists creating colorful images on the pavement. Thousands of people stopping to watch as they enjoy the opening weekend of Three Rivers Festival.
If this were any other year, that's what Fort Wayne Museum of Art's Chalk Walk would have looked like. Of course, this isn't any other year, and TRF was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Chalk Walk lives on with a new format, including an online gallery of new chalk art.
Chalk Walk at Home begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 2, with people creating chalk art on sidewalks, paved driveways and other cement or asphalt surfaces. The museum expects it to be as popular as the regular event.
“We know there are thousands that come out for the Chalk Walk event, so we're thinking that it's going to be that much more accessible and easy to get to, being on your cellphone or tablet,” says Ashley Stoneburner, vice president and chief development officer of the museum.
Chalk Walk began in 2000, and the museum says it typically draws 40,000 people to check out the artwork, which is based on the Italian tradition of street painters known as “i madonnari.”
Chalk Walk usually draws local and national artists, Stoneburner says. Registration information was sent to all regular entrants and is also open to the public.
Registration for Chalk Walk at Home began July 15, and 550 people were registered as of Wednesday afternoon. The first 500 people to register received free backpacks that included “swag” from sponsors and a 24-count box of pastels to use in their artwork.
Registration for the virtual Chalk Walk is free and continues through Aug. 2 or until the museum receives 1,000 registrations, whichever comes first. There is no restriction on where people have to live to participate, and someone has registered from as far away as Washington state.
Photos of artwork created during Chalk Walk at Home will be uploaded to a gallery at www.fwmoa.org beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. Works will be added as they are completed.
The public will be able to vote in a people's choice category through Aug. 2. On Aug. 3 and 4, judges including members of the city's Public Arts Commission will select winners in eight categories such as best use of street/sidewalk blemish; 100th anniversary of women's vote; favorite literary character; and best square by an artist under 12. Winners in most of the categories will receive $100; they will be announced Aug. 5.
Though the event usually brings a different crowd to the museum than it might see for something like a fine arts exhibition, Stoneburner says it is a long-loved tradition that the museum didn't want to skip, regardless of whether it was going to immediately bring people through the doors.
Chalk Walk at Home is coming a couple weeks after the event normally would have taken place during TRF, but Stoneburner says the museum wanted to make sure it had its ducks in a row.
“We're just glad we can bring it to the community and make it happen and get people excited about something during a tough time for a lot of people,” she says.