Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
The joy of sitting on a burning sidewalk with pastel fingertips isn’t only for young children anymore.Jacqueline Hart of Apopka, Fla. is bringing traditional artists to shame with a single weapon: chalk.
Hart was introduced to the art completely by mistake. Four years ago, Hart was walking on the sidewalk in her hometown when she stumbled across a woman she now refers to as her sensei at a charity event. The woman gave her an invitation to join her in a Japanese temple piece she had begun. Hart had limited art experience but a passion to learn.She has been going to competitions on her own since.
Now Hart is typically found at these events wearing parachute pants and purple Rollerblades.As an award-winning sidewalk chalk artist, Hart is redefining the world of creativity and establishing her mark as a force to be reckoned with.
The lost treasure of chalk art began stirring in society during the 16th century in Italy. World War II took an almost fatal toll on the practice, yet it has begun to rise again rapidly in recent years.
All over the country, thousands of strangers can be found on the sidewalks of these competitions – festivals as they’re referred to by those involved – exhausted in sweat from spending up to 14 hours a day on their hands and knees, with grated fingertips and throbbing limbs, all for something that could be washed away by the rain tomorrow.
“We’re in this together, suffering together,” said Hart. She noted how much she appreciates the supportive competition.
Hart’s flourishing love for chalk art led her to introducing it to her school two years ago. In this small fraction of time, it has become an extreme success. In back to back years, 20 kids have signed up in attempts to make the selective team of four.
They are a tight knit group; they have to be. The team can stay at festivals for 3-5 full days. They do their best to guide one another to work as a thriving system. Their most recent competition was in Disney World. Hart explained that she learns more from one day at a festival than a full semester of art at Apopka High School. “It’s like a baptism by fire,” Hart said.