I often urge people to take their time viewing a piece of art, and the Via Arte street painting festival this weekend at The Marketplace is the perfect opportunity to do just that.

After all, each painting is a work in progress.

For me, watching individuals use chalk pastels to turn an ordinary piece of pavement into a colorful work of art is sort of miraculous.

And what makes it even more interesting is that it includes all ages, from young children -- or bambinos, as Via Arte refers to them in a nod to the event's Italian roots -- to seasoned veterans.

In addition to the 150 or so local and out-of-town professional artists expected to participate in this year's event -- it's the 14th annual festival organized by the Bakersfield Museum of Art -- are a number of students from local high schools.

Each year BMOA partners with area businesses to provide blocks of 4-by-6-foot spaces to participating high schools. Officials at the museum estimate that last year more than 300 teenagers from 25 area schools were given the opportunity to take part in Via Arte.

Stockdale High is one example. Art teacher Linda Hyatt plans to have four teams of students working on the standard-size rectangles in groups of two or three this weekend. And one group is tackling a 7-by-7-foot square, one of the largest sizes available.

As for the subject matter, that's for the kids to decide.

"I usually allow my students to choose an image they really like," Hyatt said. "When you are working on the hard ground for so many hours, it helps if you are enthusiastic about the image."

One group, she said, is doing an original piece in which the full-color design must be created before the event. The others are doing copies, such as a painting of a koi fish, which they are modifying a bit from the original.

Their method of preparation for the show is one developed by Art Sherwyn, Hyatt's predecessor at Stockdale and an enthusiastic supporter of Via Arte.

"Our process involves transferring the image onto large paper with an opaque projector, and then perforating the paper by hand so the outline can be transferred by chalking onto the parking lot," Hyatt said. "This is a great time-saving method taught to us by Art Sherwyn."

Today, about a dozen Stockdale students will begin readying the site, a large portion of the Ming Avenue shopping center's parking lot.

"They help chalk the lines, and stencil the names of donors at the top of the squares," Hyatt said. "This usually takes one or two days."

Traditionally, Via Arte is the art museum's most successful event, financially and in terms of attendance. In 2011, it attracted 12,000 visitors, according to information provided by BMOA. To produce the two-day event, the art museum partners with area businesses and individuals who sponsor one or more squares. Cost for the sponsorships ranges from $150 for a 4-by-6 rectangle to $850 for a 12-by-12 foot square.

This year's featured artist is Lorelle Avonne Miller, said Vikki Cruz, BMOA curator.

Miller is known for her involvement in street painting and over the last 14 years has been an invited and featured Madonnara, or street painter, in more than 50 festivals throughout California. She also has been a lead figure in festivals in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, as well as in British Columbia, Mexico and Norway. A graduate of Cal State Northridge, she lives in Saugus.

Entertainment by various musical groups is scheduled throughout the weekend as well as performances by Claydoh the Clown and a group of belly dancers.