Chalk It Up
No Easy Task
Story and Photos by Bruce Bash
When I got near the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho last July and saw a group of people, young and older, down on their hands and knees, I might have thought someone dropped a contact lens if I didn’t know it was the second annual Idaho Falls Sidewalk Chalk Festival.
The 2023 competition, sponsored by a local dental office, attracted more than fifty artists from the area and surrounding states. I toured the sidewalk art and spoke with some of the artists in the cool of Saturday morning, as their creations were getting started, and again in the afternoon about an hour before judging was to begin.
It’s no easy task to draw pictures on a hot sidewalk in the middle of summer as a deadline looms. When I saw one young artist stretch her back and swipe a hand across her forehead that left a smudge of dust and color behind, I asked, “What’s the hardest thing about drawing on a sidewalk?”
I thought she might say, “The sidewalk,” but maybe she wasn’t in a joking mood.
“It kills the knees and wrists,” she told me. “And the hot sun saps your energy.”
A number of the artists had set up canopies over their work area to provide shade and gain some protection from the ninety-degree heat. Many participants used pads or cardboard sheets to protect their knees from the concrete. Others rolled up a towel for padding, while one young woman knelt on her sandals. I didn’t ask her if she had forgotten her pad or if her sandals were some sort of lucky charm.