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The Arts Partnership: Chalk it up to a community that wants to have fun

For the great majority of people, drawing is not a skill-set with which they will claim to have much proficiency.

I would certainly be one of those people. Ask me to draw a person and you get five sticks and a circle. My go-to doodle? A rainbow nestled in two clouds, a la my fourth grade, puffy-lettered self. And I don’t think I am alone in this anxious feeling about my inadequate drawing skills.

But that anxiety doesn’t seem to spill over into chalk drawing.

Last year, in an effort to engage youth, we launched ChalkFest with the help of our fresh-out-of-high-school intern. Held at the Great Northern Bicycle Shop plaza on a gorgeous evening in July, we hoped and planned for 50-75 people.

Imagine our surprise and delight when more than 450 people came to draw and be part of this informal community-wide event. The fact that it was a picture-perfect evening in Fargo just added to the enchantment.

When I say people, I don’t mean 450-plus teenagers, of which there were plenty. I mean singles, couples, parents and children; grandparents and grandchildren, first dates, youth groups, friends and more.

We had a seriously diverse range of people, and they didn’t come, draw and go home. They came, they stood in line for pizza, they drew, they admired others’ work and showed off their own. They drew with their grandparents and with their kids. They walked around and enjoyed the incredible feeling of community that existed for well over two-hours.

With such surprising success, we knew we had to try to find a way to continue and improve what had been a quick suggestion from our intern.

If we could draw more than 450 people with minimal planning and limited advertising, what would a strategically planned event look like, and more importantly, how would it engage an even bigger portion of the community?

Cue our fabulous intern this year. Sean Carpenter’s entire summer has been spent preparing for tonight’s ChalkFest at Island Park. He has gone above and beyond to make sure that every detail has been thought through to ensure that participants have a great time and enjoy the day.

Bree Reetz and McCal Joy Johnson will be doing a big chalk drawing inside Island Park, and a variety of businesses helped sponsor the day by purchasing a square of sidewalk to do their own competitive drawings.

From 2-4 p.m., we are doing “Chalk with Tots” for day cares, preschools and school-aged kids. We will have games, healthy snacks, bubbles and chalk.

In an effort to be as inclusive as possible, Sean even created upright chalkboards so people who can’t draw on the ground can be part of the fun.

Food vendors are coming from 4-7 p.m., and include WildMoon Salsa, The Hot Dog Peddler, Gigi’s Iced Lollies and Milkhaus.

Inspire Innovation Lab will be on hand to do cool science projects with chalk. North Dakota State University geologist Jessie Rock will be there to talk about chalk from a geological perspective. There will be bubbles and an on-going cupcake walk for a freewill donation to keep ChalkFest going in the future.

But most importantly, come enjoy as the community comes to draw and socialize together.

There’s something about a blank square of sidewalk that takes away the pressure that a blank canvas can induce. Chalk has a very limited lifespan, so if it’s terrible, you can take comfort in knowing it will be long gone in a matter of hours. If it’s great, you can proudly show off your skills to friends and strangers alike.

Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership, writes a monthly column for Variety. For more information on the arts, go to

If You Go

WHAT: ChalkFest 2014, sponsored by The Arts Partnership

WHEN: Island Park

WHERE: 2-7:30 p.m. today. Chalk with Tots starts at 2. Local food vendors will open from 4-7. Music by Diane Miller and the Silver Daggers starts at 6. The Fargo Park District’s movie night presentation of “Despicable Me 2” starts at 8:45.

INFO: Free and open to the public. Visit for more information.