Chalk the walk: Sidewalks bring out artists’ creativity

Gazette photo by Erik Sandin
Pedraic DeBruzzi points to a feature on his sidewalk chalk drawing of a walrus to his mother Thursday. Padraic and his sister, Amelia, were among the contestants in the Chicago Dogs sidewalk chalk art contest.

Concrete sidewalks were the canvases, chalk was medium and the works ranged from flowers to hotdogs to a walrus and a cupcake.

For eight hours Thursday, artists young and old turned sidewalks around Bruce Chesin’s Chicago Dogs restaurant into works of art in the restaurant’s annual Sidewalk Chalk Art contest. By 5 p.m., Chesin said nearly 30 people had left their marks on sidewalks around Chicago Dogs.

“Right now, I’ve had 26 pre-register. So far, I’ve had eight to 10 walk up,” Chesin said. “We’re probably going to end up with 40 to 45. Iā€™m not sure where I’m going to put them.”

As Chesin pondered his problem, Jackie DeBruzzi of Stillwater was sitting in a chair watching her children ā€” 13-year-old Padraic and 12-year-old Amelia ā€” work on their sidewalk chalk creations.

“They’ve been working maybe about two hours now,” said Jackie DeBruzzi, adding that her children are not novices when it comes to creating chalk art.

“This is our fifth year,” she added.

As Amelia DeBruzzi worked on her flower, brother, Padraic, was putting the finishing touches on a cartoon walrus character. He gave two reasons why he entered the contest.

“It’s just a lot of fun being out here. I especially love the food,” he said.

A half-block away, Richard Carlson watched his daughter, first-time contestant Desirea Szabla, 8, finish drawing and signing her cupcake with pink icing.

“This is her first contest,” Carlson said. “We came down here to try the pizza when the pizza shop opened and we saw there was a contest.”

Carlson said his daughter started slowly on her chalk drawing, but he added that she soon got into the spirit of the contest.

“I think we were a little nervous at first, but she got going after awhile,” Carlson said.

Desirea said the inspiration to draw a chalk cupcake came easy.

“I drawed them a lot,” she said.

Sidewalk Chalk Art contestants had until 9 p.m. Thursday to finish their drawings. Chesin said local artists judge the drawings from 1 to 3 p.m. today and announce the winners in each catagory later this afternoon

Chesin held past chalk art contests on the Thursday of Lumberjack Days week and said he saw no reason to stop the contest after the Stillwater City Council cancelled the festival earlier this year. Although the contest around 40 entries, Chesin admits his restaurant will probably see less business this weekend without Lumberjack Days.

“What it has hurt is the volume of business on the weekend,” he said. “We’re not going to get that traffic.”

What foot traffic Chesin gets this weekend will have to dodge some very creative chalk drawings provided rain stays away.