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Published November 04, 2012, 12:00 AM

Fla. chalk festival yields mind- bending works

SARASOTA, Fla. – Chalk: it’s not just for blackboards. On a stretch of asphalt in Sarasota’s downtown, dozens of artists from around the world are sketching, rubbing and painting chalk on the pavement.

By: Associated Press, Associated Press

SARASOTA, Fla. – Chalk: it’s not just for blackboards.

On a stretch of asphalt in Sarasota’s downtown, dozens of artists from around the world are sketching, rubbing and painting chalk on the pavement. For hours they work, creating mind-bending images of whimsical cats, Renaissance beauties and surreal 3-D images of spooky teddy bears. They’re here for the fifth annual Sarasota Chalk Festival, which is free and runs through Tuesday.

The theme of this year’s festival is Circus City USA – a nod to the city’s heritage as the headquarters for the Ringling Bros. Circus.

The world’s top street artists from Italy, Brazil and Japan were drawn to the festival to create these temporary works of art on the pavement. While the artists do use traditional-looking cylindrical pieces of chalk, many also mix the chalk with water and use paintbrushes to apply it to the asphalt.

Some pieces are classical. Others are whimsical, like the one by artist Bryan Moon of eight cats dressed as Wild West characters.

Other works are mind-bending, surreal 3-D images of futuristic robots and mechanical parts.

Denise Kowal, the founder of the Sarasota Chalk Festival, said that many of the artists also work on traditional canvas and it’s a treat for people to see them actually in action, “painting” on the ground.

“Artists always spend their time inside the gallery and this is so awesome because the public really gets to be there and see the whole creative process and what goes in it from beginning to end,” she said.

There are a number of pavement artists visiting the Florida festival from Italy, a country where street art is popular. In the 16th century, Italians who painted the Madonna and other images from inside cathedrals in chalk on the streets were known as Madonnari.

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