East Houston Street is normally deserted early Saturday morning, but that changes once a year on the second Saturday of October.
By 6 a.m. on Oct. 11, a few figures will be moving briskly in the direction of the Majestic Theatre. Within the hour the figures will start to multiply into whole platoons of enthusiastic workers in matching red T-shirts. These volunteers will be getting ready for a veritable army of 22,000 children and parents, who will take up 10,000 sticks of chalk and transform Houston Street into one amazing work of public art.
The 11th annual Artpace Chalk It Up is a free community festival hosted by local nonprofit Artpace San Antonio, a contemporary art organization and artist residency program located in the heart of downtown. This year’s Artpace Chalk It Up will feature murals made by local artists as well as community organizations, Kid Zone art-making activities, Free Style areas where anyone can chalk in the street, live music curated by KRTU’s own JJ Lopez, chalk-inspired yoga activities from Mobile Om, festival food, and more.
It’s obvious that “dreaming big,” the Artpace Education mantra, sums up Artpace and Chalk It Up perfectly — with a small staff of less than 20, Artpace accomplishes big things. Best known for its residency program that brings Texas-based, national, and international art and artists to San Antonio, Artpace also established Chalk It Up in 2003, an urban chalk festival dedicated to arts awareness and education. The event is the primary fundraiser for Artpace’s contemporary arts education program, which serves more than 8,000 students and 13 school districts annually.
Each year Artpace relies on community partner organizations to make Chalk It Up a success. The committee of partners is made up of professionals from a variety of backgrounds and helps makes Artpace Chalk It Up collaborative and dynamic. With more than 300 volunteers, Artpace Chalk It Up one of the largest festivals in the city.
Artpace Director of Education Kaela Hoskings said growth of the event has been steady since its inception, when “Four-thousand people attended the first Artpace Chalk It Up, and now, 11 years later, the event attracts more than fives times that number annually.”
“Artpace Chalk It Up is a huge event, but it’s important because it’s different than other festivals,” Hoskings said. “It emphasizes art and connects and exposes San Antonio to Artpace’s education program and to contemporary art in general. It’s become an education event that is meant to support our education programs year-round.”
Artpace Chalk it Up highlights a range of San Antonio talents, from the local 23 Showcase and Feature artists who create chalk murals to the lineup of bands and DJs who will provide all-day entertainment, curated by KRTU’s own JJ Lopez. This year’s Showcase artists include current Artpace exhibiting artists, Jimmy James Canales, Adriana Corral, and Joey Fauerso, whose work you can see at Artpace in the Window Works and Hudson (Show)Room.
To encourage families to learn together about art, Artpace Chalk It Up will have two Kid Zones, where Artpace’s art educators will lead children and their families in Artpace exhibition-inspired creative projects. In addition to these projects, Mobile Om, a mobile yoga studio, will conduct contemporary art-infused yoga lessons, and The Playhouse will have characters from “The Wizard of Oz,” which opens Oct. 3, making appearances.
Artpace Chalk It Up not only invites the San Antonio community to attend the event but also to actively participate. This year, 52 nonprofits, schools, and universities will participate in Team Works, receiving an 8′ x 10′ concrete canvas to create their own collaborative chalk masterpiece.
Taylor Browning, Artpace’s assistant curator of education, teen and university programs, is managing this year’s Team Works and Kid Zone activities.
“Team Works connects the community to Artpace and to the urban cultural renaissance of San Antonio,” Browning said.
Artpace is encouraging this year’s attendees to walk or ride a B-cycle to visit Artpace’s home base, located only a few blocks down the street at 445 N. Main Ave. There is free parking at Artpace, and it’s always free to visit the galleries.
Artpace managers said Chalk It Up would not be possible without community support and this year’s co-chairs, Xitlalt Herrera-Salazar and Trudy Madan, and presenting sponsor Argo Group.
*Featured image: Chalk It Up attendees fill Houston Street in 2013. Photo by Francisco Cortes.