Chalk connects community

Local artists painted chalk murals on sidewalks in Kensington and Fishtown on Saturday.

Rushawn Stanley works on his chalk mural outside the Monkey Club on York Street near Amber. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On Saturday, 14 artists scattered throughout East Kensington and Fishtown took part in the 2020 Philadelphia Chalk Festival, a street painting event connecting local artists, businesses and community organizations.

Sponsored by Mural Arts Philadelphia and the Painted Bride Art Center, the festival took place from 12 p.m. until sundown outside several venues and businesses. Artists worked on their murals all day and set up materials and supplies along the sidewalk. 

Festival founder and director Rushawn Stanley, 27, who lives on Morris Street near 13th, came up with the idea for the chalk festival after remembering a street painting festival he attended as a child growing up in Elmira, New York.

“Philly didn’t have anything, so I thought there was a way to do it and promote the arts, while allowing people to be socially distant,” Stanley said.

Working with his friend and festival producer, April Rose, 23, the two organized a form for artists to submit their ideas for chalk murals. After choosing the artists, they partnered them with businesses and venues in Kensington and Fishtown to create the pieces outside on sidewalks.

Through sponsorships and collaborations with the Community College of Philadelphia, Coral Streets Arts House and other organizations, artists were paid a $300 stipend and provided supplies for the festival.

Cory Kram, 31, a multi-disciplinary artist who lives on Larchwood Avenue near 49th Street, painted a piece called “Journey” outside neighborhood bar Martha on Martha Street near York. Kram described her mural as an “interpretive dance” that unfolded naturally and used a variety of colors and abstract shapes, like orange-yellow flowers and blue-green raindrops.

“This event creates hope and adds color to a very scary time in history,” Kram said. “It’s therapeutic for the community to see art being created.”

De’Von Downes, 23, a portrait artist from Glassboro, New Jersey, found out about the chalk festival through Mural Arts Philadelphia and submitted his idea for the mural “Girl with the Hoop Earring,” which he worked on outside The Boom Room studios on Front Street near Thompson.

“People can still enjoy art, not just art from their phones, laptops or tablets, but art in person,” Downes said. “It keeps it alive, keeps it fresh, and seeing it in person is way different than seeing it digitally, you get a little more soul out of it.”

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