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Lockport chalk art fest growing, moving

LOCKPORT – The Sweet Chalk Festival is moving to a new location and offering more art in its third year.

Cash prizes will be offered to the student artists who attend the event Saturday and next Sunday in the city parking lot off Pine Street, the site of the city’s former parking ramp.

Ellen Martin, the organizer of this and many other artistic events in Lockport, said about 30 professional artists are being paid $250 each to attend and present works on the pavement.

“A grant from the Grigg-Lewis Foundation really allowed us to up our game,” Martin said.

This has enabled her to bring to Lockport a formidable lineup of artists who otherwise might not have been interested. Some will create original works, while others will replicate famous paintings in chalk.

“None of the other chalk festivals pay,” Martin said. “We support art. We appreciate their craft.”

“I think last year it was great. People loved it,” Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said. “Even after it was over, people were stopping by, enjoying the work.”

Martin said all but one of the professionals who took part last year will be back.

“Our headliners include the Chalk Guys from West Palm, Fla., who will be doing a 3-D pirate ship; Eric Maruscak, who did the 3-D Batman last year; and Beth Shistle, also from Florida, who will be doing Seurat’s ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,’ ” Martin said.

She confessed that the latter is one of her favorite paintings and Shistle is replicating it as a favor to Martin.

Joe Mahley is now a headliner after being rated the fan favorite two years in a row. Last year he did a chalk version of Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” This time around, he is scheduled to produce a replica of Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.”

The lineup also includes about a dozen student artists, from Lockport High School, SUNY Buffalo State and other institutions. Martin said the students will include Andrea Falsone, a member of this year’s Lockport High School senior class, who won the competition for the 2015 Niagara County Fair logo.

The high school and college students are eligible to win a $500 first prize for the best-in-show award, with a $250 prize being offered for the best work by a younger student.

In all, there will be three or four times more artists than the festival offered in previous years.

The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. That alone is one of the reasons to move the chalk fest from its previous location on Canal Street. Another practical reason is that the Canal Street site is becoming crowded on summer Saturdays.

While the artists are down on their hands and knees, artists affiliated with the Lockside Art Center will have easels set up to paint works depicting the chalk artists at work. It’s part of the center’s program of “plein air,” or outdoor painting.

Lockside is the not-for-profit officially hosting the contest this year. Besides the Grigg-Lewis Foundation, other sponsors include Lock 34 Bar and Grill, S.M. Pynn & Sons, J. Fitzgerald Group, Diversified Manufacturing and attorney Thomas W. Scirto.

Also, photographers will be eligible to win a prize of $150 for the best photo of a work created at the fest, with the money being offered by local resident Ann Connelly.

A square in the parking lot will be set aside for children – “little chalkers,” Martin calls them – to try their hands at chalk art.

“It’ll build out like a patchwork quilt,” Martin said.

The festival was held in mid-August the last two years, but Martin decided to move up the date to get the jump on ChalkFest Buffalo, which is scheduled for Aug. 1-2 in the 500 block of Main Street.