Chalk masterpieces at the 23rd annual Chalk It Up! contest

Hendersonville Art

By Pete Zamplas- Chalk art adorned much of Main Street’s sidewalk on Saturday, in the 23rd annual Chalk It Up! contest.

This is the pro winner — a portrait of Prince, by Beverly Russell. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The free contest is a popular attraction, that goes well with the bear figures that remain up until auctioned Oct. 19. The chalk art is much more temporary, as rain washes it off and began within an hour after the contest ended.

Beverly Russell is the professional winner. She sketched a portrait of the famed late musician Prince, with hues of blues and of course purple for the singer of “Purple Rain.”

Russell, 34, has competed in all 23 of the local chalk contests —which is for two-thirds of her life. Her mother Yoriko Russell, also a former winner in the contest’s pro division, as usual had her entry next to her daughter’s work.

Beverly Russell has said how she normally prefers to paint in acrylic. Like other artists, she adjusts to the uniqueness of chalk. She has depicted rock stars before, such as sketching Michael Jackson a decade ago. Before that her subjects ranged from Abe Lincoln to comic Lucille Ball. Yoriko has drawn musicians Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong, and an award-winning angel. This time, she sketched the late Princess Diana.

Jack Walsh Jr., 30, of Edneyville and his sons Ryland, 9, and Wesson, 5, each sketched beneath a shady tree on the summer morning. This was a fun family event, as Jack’s sister Chelsea and their father Jack Sr. encouraged their creativity.

Jack Walsh Jr. is with his sons, Ryland and Wesson. Ryland drew a Poké ball pod Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Ryland based his image on a card he had handy, of a Pokemon Poké ball pod. He reinterpreted it, stretching it from circular to instead be ovular across the square sidewalk block. Jack Jr. sketched Toy Story’s The Claw, part of a rocket ship Space Crane game within the Pizza Planet.

Amateurs were split into age divisions. Here are winners: Age 5 and younger: Jimmy Scholz, Manny Morrissey, Janie Sherman, Heidi Bernier, Uriah Fogarty; 6-8: Sofia Buraglia, Madeline Fender, Olivia Pavao, Aydan Shay, Ruthie Gessler; 9-12: Braden Ponder, Ryan Bartlett, Aiden Taylor, Virginia Oakman, Olivia Gessler; ages 13-20: Emily Hammond, Eliza Davis, Abby Thompson, Katrina Gessler, Lita Fandozzi; and 21 and elder: Mary Mujica, Richard Merritt, Rebecca Allen, Becky Fernandez, Hannah Gessler.

The organizer is Barbara Hughes, who owns Narnia Studios gift shop at 408 N. Main St. She handed out chalk set buckets to competitors, after cutting long chalk strips into many blocks.

Children got 52 colors to choose from, and adults the usual 20 with no switching to kids’ chalk or other medium allowed.

The art must be directly on the concrete sidewalk, rather than other medium that attaches to the sidewalk. Art cannot be signed, so it remains anonymous to judges.

These circling finned creatures seem to like each other. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

No “political art,” words or symbols are permitted. Images varied in content and texture. Common visual themes were flora, humans, family pets and monsters.

This is among the most surreal and colorful images. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

The 150 competitors are each assigned a sidewalk block, along street blocks from First to Sixth avenues. The field has been limited to 150 contestants since the fifth year, after rising in increments of 25 since debuting with 50 people.

The contest is free. But entrants must register ahead, start by 9 a.m. and finish on time to qualify for judging. As Hughes notes, the contest is “very organized. Each person knows where they’ll be, and how long (two hours, 8:30-10:30 a.m.) they have.”

Judging by a panel started at 11 a.m. Within the hour, winners were chosen and rain started first in a sprinkle then a steadier downpour. It often rains on the day of the contest, or by the next day since it is in the summer rain season.

Jonah Isserman’s goat is among chalky creations. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Hughes said her favorite time is seeing the initial changes in chalk art’s look from inevitable rain. Some images held up better than others, after the initial rain. The Prince face blurred some, but survived well. Nearby a multi-colored piece dripped its colors into a psychedelic swirl of waterfalling-like blue and other hues. Once the sun came back out, its light spotlit the image, including maroon blotches.


Hughes also puts on the Mighty Kite Flight, Easter Bonnet Promenade,Tulip Extravaganza and its photo contest, and Lovers Lane On Main. For more on such events, call Barbara Hughes at 697-6393.

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