By Robert Blood
Trisha Anderson was running errands with her daughters maybe three years ago in Prescott when it happened.
“I saw all these people in a parking lot,” Anderson said. “It was fascinating. It was amazing. We ended up hanging out for a couple of hours.”
They discovered legion people huddled over a sprawling pavement canvas. They discovered perfect strangers of all ages exercising art and community with chalk. They discovered good ol’ fashioned family fun.
“We’re lucky to have this here,” said Anderson, who previously taught art to area home school students.
She was instantly hooked on Chalk it Up!, Prescott’s premier public street art festival. She’s gone every year since. And so have her children.
“It’s really cool,” Kayla Champlin said. “Every year you see something different, and you can draw something different.”
Her sister Shae Champlin, a prolific doodler, agreed.
“There are a lot of different people, and everyone’s really nice,” she said. “It’s fun.”
And — despite the updates, anecdotes, and details to follow — that’s probably the bottom line when it comes to Chalk It Up!
The seventh annual Chalk It Up! festival is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 18 and 19 at the National Bank of Arizona parking lot, 201 N. Montezuma St., Prescott.
Chalk, full of fun
Yes, the chalk’s free and, yes, you can take it home.
“Our whole neighborhood was covered in chalk for a week after the festival,” said Tina Blake, who, after taking her children and a now defunct Girl Scout troops to Chalk It Up! in 2013, brought back some neighborhood kids to enjoy the merriment. “That free chalk, it’s the best.”
Since launching in 2009, Chalk It Up! has offered patrons the chance to watch professional artists and amateurs alike create chalky masterpieces and, furthermore, create their own.
“Last year, we had more than 4,000 people — the highest attendance yet,” said Blake, who joined the board governing Chalk It Up! prior to its 2014 iteration. “It’s grown, it’s growing, and it’s getting better and better.”
This year’s featured artists are Lisa Bernal Brethour, of Tempe, and Lori Antionette Williams, from California. Many of the eight guest artists are past attendees.
From the patron’s perspective, 2015’s biggest change is the awards. Previously there was a public vote that culminated in best-of-show prizes in three categories — adult, youth, and child, each of which came with a small cash sum. This year, sponsors will award an adult, youth, and child prize — some of which may be gift certificates and similar fare — every couple of hours, resulting in a couple dozen-plus total awards.
“Before, we gave out awards on the last day when no one was there,” Blake said. “This way is going to be something more lively and exciting.”
Blake has a more dynamic role in the proceedings this year as her day-job employer — the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Foundation — is now in charge of the event.
Behind the scenes, this has entailed major administrative changes, though the transition should appear seamless.
Taking the reins
Originally, Blake thought another group she’s involved with would take charge of Chalk It Up! — namely, The Launch Pad, a local teen center startup.
“They didn’t want it, though, so I got to thinking,” said Blake, who’s the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Foundation’s development coordinator. “Chalk It Up! is all about creativity, which is integral to mental well-being, so it’s a natural fit for WYGC.”
Along with fellow extant Chalk It Up! board member Susan Crutcher, Blake pitched the idea to the clinic’s foundation board, which voted unanimously to adopt it as a signature event and fundraiser. (Incidentally, the foundation is also behind the annual “Ghost Talk” series.)
“There are a lot of other similarities between the two groups,” Blake said. “You know, when the West Yavapai Guidance clinic started in the 1960s, it was a grassroots effort and was built up by the community, which is the same progression as Chalk It Up!”
Proceeds beyond the festival’s costs will fund mental health programs. The goal, Blake said, is for Chalk It Up! to pull $20,000-$30,000. As of February, the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic had already more than doubled 2014’s roughly $6,000 fundraising efforts.
Little about Chalk It Up! is likely to change, save for the availability of information about area mental health programs. The event itself, she said, is a program of sorts.
“Hope comes in many different forms,” Blake said. “Sometimes it’s having the proper medication or mediation to feel better; sometimes it’s having a good therapy session; and sometimes it’s fining joy in the little things.
“Having a box of chalk and drawing on the street is one way of doing that.”
Opportunities for inter-generational cooperation are especially important, she added.
“We love that idea, and not just with blood families,” Blake said. “We have a lot of seniors here who don’t live close by families, and we’d like to see more interactions between seniors and kids in the community.”
Anderson, Kayla, and Shae aren’t the only members of her clan who regularly attend Chalk It Up!
“I pretty much got the idea of what it’d be like on the internet,” said Linda, Anderson’ mother and an artist who’s a member of Chino Valley’s High Desert Artists. “It’s loads of fun and you get to see all these different techniques.”
“We’ve always done a lot of things together as a family, but this is a special opportunity,” said Dale, Anderson father.
Sometimes they work on the same pieces, other times not. To date, they’ve done the penguins from “Madagascar,” a 3D fish, a frog, and, more than two months before the 2015 event, had already planned their next chalk piece.
“It’s a secret, well, at least for now,” Anderson said. “It’s another cartoon.”
“I thought I vetoed that,” Dale said with a laugh.
Aside form an above-average penchant for art, Anderson’s family story isn’t unusual at Chalk It Up! Many others have stumbled upon the event through chance or by reputation, and having caught the bug, roped in friends, family, and loved ones.
In fact, Blake’s mother, Joyce Boden, her children, Cassidy and Shelby, and her husband, Kevin Blake, are Chalk It Up! will be there as another three-generations family.
“It’s not unusual for us to get whole families who volunteer and participate,” Blake said. “That’s what kind of event Chalk It Up! is.”
Chalk It Up! is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 18 & 19. Find out more at PrescottChalkArt.Com and Facebook.Com/pages/Chalk-It-Up-Prescott/190174460998850. All event proceeds benefit community mental health programs via the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic and its foundation.
The West Yavapai Guidance Clinic is at 3343 N. Windsong Drive Prescott Valley, AZ 86314, 928-445-5211. Find out more at WYGC.Org.
Tags: Chalk it Up!, Dale Anderson, Kayla Champlin, Linda Anderson, Lisa Bernal Brethour, Lori Antionette Williams, Shae Champlin, Susan Crutcher, Tina Blake, Trisha Anderson, West Yavapai Guidance Clinic, West Yavapai Guidance Clinic Foundation