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Chalk artist at the Denver Chalk Art Festival
Photo courtesy Marc Piscotty

Let’s Go: Denver Chalk Art Festival

Check out the family-friendly festival in Larimer Square, June 3-4.

Who says fine art belongs in galleries? At this year’s 15th annual Denver Chalk Art Festival, 270 artists will spend one weekend transforming Larimer Square into a colorful street museum in a tradition dating back to 16th-century Renaissance Italy. By Sunday night, the temporary exhibit will cover a whopping 9,167 square feet of pavement, making the festival the largest of its kind in the Rocky Mountain region.

It’s no wonder, then, that madonnari—or, chalk artists—fly in from California, accompanying local masters such as Steve DeOrio and Mark Hollenbeck, and a few new artists, including 120 students from area high schools and youth groups. Professionals and amateurs spend thousands of hours combined on their hands and knees, working inside 8-by-8-foot, 8-by-12-foot, and 12-by-12-foot boundaries to create original pieces of flat and three-dimensional artwork.

“As far as free festivals go, this is certainly one of the most impressive,” says Mae Birtch, associate director of the Larimer Arts Association. It’s one of the most family-friendly festivals, too. Part exhibit, part street performance, the experience is hands-on and interactive. Spectators of all ages are encouraged to walk right up to their favorite artists and ask questions. “Visitors often come to the festival both days because they love to see the progression of the art throughout the weekend,” adds Birtch.

If you’re visiting with your family, she recommends perusing the pavement first, before stopping at a special kids” corner, where children can create their own chalk masterpieces. The weekend is set to the tune of live music from various bands, and food vendors will be on-site, dishing up pizza, barbecue, and other festival favorites. There’s also a wine tasting tent for grown-up guests. The art might not last long—that’s kind of the point!—but the memories your family makes at Denver Chalk Art Festival will stick long after the chalk washes away.

Check it Out

Larimer Square, Denver

Need to know

Saturday, June 3, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, June 4, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Pricing: Free

Insider Secret

This two-day block party draws thousands of art lovers annually. To avoid parking woes, arrive early, and try the lot on Market St., between 14th and 15th St.—or bypass parking entirely by taking the Light Rail.

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