Chalk Up Another One

After Last Year’s Red Tide-Related Hiatus, the Chalk Festival Returns to Venice

Artists from around the world are already busy creating new work for the 2019 fest, set for Nov. 15-18.

By Kay Kipling November 4, 2019 Published in the November 2019 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Chalk artist Simona Lanfredi Sofia’s design for the Chalk Festival’s "Eat, Drink & Be Merry" theme in 2015.

Image: Courtesy Photo 

The popular Chalk Festival that turns the Venice Airport Fairgrounds into the largest display of 3D pavement art in any one spot may have been down for the count last fall, thanks to red tide. But it’s not out, as artists from around the world are already busy creating new work for the 2019 fest, set for Nov. 15-18.

“Most people don’t know that the artists start working weeks in advance to have our large installations completed,” says festival founder Denise Kowal. “The pre-activities are like pavement art boot camp. Then the public gets to enjoy completed works right when we open as well as be a part of the artists’ process as they create traditional and smaller pieces” over the weekend.

There’s more to the four days of the festival than some may realize. Besides those oversized pavement creations, the event offers a “Garden of Wonders” maze (“Garden of Wonders” is this year’s overall theme), a pavement music festival, a “young and young at heart” interactive area, food and beverages. The artists are also working on the restoration and redesign of the mammoth Megalodon Shark (taking up the length of two football fields) that earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records when first created in 2014. According to Kowal, the idea for the shark came about to keep people engaged when “the city required us to direct visitors to park at the airport, and we had to hire buses to come to the locations downtown. The only way I thought people would park there is if we did something to make it interesting as they wait for a bus.”

A “props camp” will offer participants the chance to work with the artists on oversized props—papier mâché, foam and wood flowers and animals, etc.—related to the “Garden of Wonders” theme. Usually 10 to 40 artists are involved per project.

And returning artist Kurt Wenner will be painting an interactive three-dimensional “illusion room.” When viewed or photographed from a specific viewpoint, the “room” appears normal, but people and objects within it are distorted. Water appears to flow uphill, or a ball seems to roll upwards. Such an environment has been done before, but in Wenner’s vision the illusion takes place in all directions, featuring a design with no perpendicular sides at all. Be prepared to have your mind blown.

Last spring, Kowal and her crew held a smaller scale chalk festival in downtown Sarasota, where the event originated in 2007. But this month, back at the larger airport site, Kowal hopes to welcome tens of thousands of visitors.

To learn more about how you can get involved in this year’s Chalk Festival, visit

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