Do you remember drawing with chalk on the pavement when you were a little kid? You may have covered yourself in dust and felt so excited that you had so much space to work with. Bakersfield Museum of Art’s Via Arte Italian Street Painting Festival on Oct. 19 and 20 takes that wonderful feeling to the next level with a weekend-long event!

Artists of any age can participate!

The Marketplace kindly lends the Bakersfield Museum of Art a large section of its parking lot and provides a fresh, smooth surface. Then BMoA organizes the space into working “squares,” ready to be transformed by artists. There’s something about the use of professional-grade chalk pastel on the pavement that makes each work come to life.

Adults have the opportunity to submit a work of art that they can recreate on squares as large as 12 feet by 12 feet. Many choose to work in teams but there are many solo artists as well. High schools and other organizations have the same opportunity to create with squares as large as 7 feet by 7 feet. Each square is sponsored by local businesses, families and museum supporters so this incredible experience is of no cost to these participants.

For our young artists and those who may not want to create such a large work, there are 2-by-2-feet squares available to purchase, which come with a box of professional-grade chalk. Many children and teens grow up anticipating the day they can have their own square. Since this will be the 21st annual event, many children have grown up and are now making one of their childhood dreams come true.

A spectacular thing about Via Arte is that the community and artists can interact with one another. For many artists, this is their favorite thing about the event. They love sharing their work, answering questions, telling stories and seeing reactions from others.

Personally, this is my favorite event that occurs in Bakersfield. The brightly lit colors, the community of artists that participates yearly and the thousands of faces that come out is a sight to see.

Best of all, it’s free for all to attend.

I’ve completed two squares by myself and I plan to do another one this year. It is so much fun but definitely requires hard work and a commitment. The reward is priceless. You are among one of the artists who are part of a one-of-a-kind public exhibition.

Monday night after Via Arte, the work of hundreds of artists is washed away but the memories from BMoA’s street painting festival will last a lifetime. It is truly a Bakersfield tradition.

The love of this community shines so strong at this annual event. I can’t wait for the 21st Annual Via Arte Italian Street Painting Festival to begin. 

Natalia Perez is the social media and volunteer coordinator at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. This will be her fifth year working at the festival. She will graduate from Bakersfield College this year with an AA in art, liberal studies and American sign language. Next year, she hopes to return to BC’s Interpreter Training Program for ASL. You can find her at Via Arte with an umbrella hat. The views expressed are her own.

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