Chalk and Walk colours Crown Center

Jessica Turner

The 6th annual Kansas City Chalk and Walk drew community members together to share and observe creative works of colorful art filling the pavements of Crown Center Sept. 7-8.

Chalk and Walk is a non-profit organization that promotes educational arts programs for children in the community. The Children’s Creative Corridor was at the top of the stairs near a row of fountains under an enormous white shaded canopy, enclosed by a safety parameter.

“I decided to start this festival because that’s really my love,” Lotti Halpern, executive director and founder. “I love doing this. You get to see the children’s area, you see the street performers, you get to see how beautiful it really is.”

Halpern said she thinks this year brought in the best turn-out the festival has ever had. Her son, senior Jacob Halpern, volunteered at the festival with seniors James Nixon and Tiffany Friend and other fellow Alpha Kappa Psi members.

Alpha Kappa Psi occupied a big tent and served as guides for artists and visitors.

“This is actually the first time that Alpha Kappa Psi has done anything like this, so we’re really excited about it,” Friend said. “We’re here checking in the artists, handing out chalk to them, giving them water and goodie bags, so there’s a lot of stuff going on. There are a lot of really good drawings out here.”

The chalk that Friend distributed was donated by Crayola and in addition to helping the artists Friend explained they also encouraged people to buy tickets to help aid children in art schools. Halpern works year-round to gather sponsors and make the event possible.

“One of our members, Jacob Halpern—his mother, Carlotta, is actually the one who put all of this together and she invited us to volunteer here,” she said. “We’re having a really good time, and we also had a bunch of friends come with us.”

“It just shows that Kansas City is definitely still about the arts,” Jacob Halpern said.

One volunteer,  junior Saige Stortz, was inside the corridor with fellow Jumpstart members, helping children make friendship bracelets and other crafts.

“We’re a volunteer organization and what we do is we go into communities where they don’t have as many resources, and we teach those children language, literacy, social skills and we get them prepared for kindergarten,” Stortz said.

Carlotta Halpern said Jumpstart students volunteer every year, and the area serves as the perfect place for the children to experience the festival. Children were able to have their faces painted and create make-and-take arts and crafts. Some of the children were on the lawn hula hooping while others drew mini versions of chalk art on the pavement. Children could also participate in workshops by Michael’s Arts and Crafts.

The Chalk and Walk began in 2008, and Halpern received feedback from Crown Center furthering the sentiment about a great turnout.

“I think it’s because it’s just so laid back,” she said. “And it’s like—like that—how many people do you see that can do edible art? He’s making edible art right there. Paseo Academy [of Fine and Performing Arts] students are playing [stringed instruments] right behind you.”

The guests at the Kansas City Chalk and Walk leisurely walk around the intertwined paths of vivid artistry. They may eventually grab some complimentary yogurt by Chobani or run into alumna and professional artist Amy DeSitter. This year, she was working on her piece “Small World” to fit one of the festival’s themes, “Around the World.”

Her plot consisted of several small buildings, houses, locations and decorations inspired by multiple cultures.

“I always do the drawing and this year I have a team of five so my team usually just fills in the colors from there,” DeSitter said. “Most of these people have been with me ever since our first year.”

DeSitter was complimenting a story in the Kansas City Star published in the Saturday issue about her life and artistry. The article explained that DeSitter had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction in the past, but Halpern led her back to art and education. She has now been sober since the Chalk and Walk started six years ago.

“I graduated from UMKC last spring with a bachelor’s in Studio Art and I plan on going to grad school next fall,” DeSitter said.

Many artists encourage attendees to not just view the art, but get to know the artists as well.

“The whole idea is to talk to the artists, talk to the visitors and interact with them,” Halpern said. “And it gives the artists an opportunity to come out and say, you know, ‘Look. Look what I can do’.”

And with two full days of artistic activity, there is plenty of time to absorb everything Chalk and Walk has to offer.

“We encourage people to come back both days of the festival, so they can kind of see the progress,” DeSitter said. “That’s half the fun. Really, it is.”

Halpern enjoys the historical and multicultural aspect of the festival and because Crown Center’s walkways are made of brick they serve as the perfect grid canvas for the chalk artists.

“It’s a 16th-century tradition in Italy and in 16th-century, did they have concrete or bricks? They had bricks or something that looked like bricks,” Halpern said. “So this is very traditional.”

The skill levels of artists ranged from amateur to student to professional. Some had perfected their process and propped umbrellas to shade themselves and wore kneepads to ease the pressure of the bricks. Some laid  on their stomachs on skateboards casually coloring with their pastels.

Regardless of particular techniques, however, all the artists and visitors enjoyed the outdoor gallery and the opportunity to share creative beauty with the Kansas City community.