Since 1998, the Bakersfield Museum of Art’s Via Arte Italian Street Painting Festival has become a highly anticipated event each October. This year, Via Arte returns to The Marketplace from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 20 and 21.

The event was started 20 years ago in the spirit of the traditional Italian street painting.

“This event was conceived as a way of bringing fine art from the museum walls to the streets, where it is more accessible for the community. All proceeds raised benefit the Bakersfield Museum of Art and its mission,” said Bakersfield Museum of Art Marketing Coordinator Erwin Ledford.

The mission of the museum is to inspire and engage diverse audiences by providing a broad spectrum of creative visual arts experiences through the exhibition and preservation of fine art, educational programs, community outreach and special events.

While this is an event that appreciates the arts and includes live entertainment, it is something the entire family can enjoy and interact.

Each year, professional artists and students use the asphalt with chalk pastels to create beautiful designs either from realistic photo renderings to recreations of masterpieces to colorful modern art pieces.

“What makes Via Arte special is not the individual styles, but the wide variety of techniques that are on display,” said Ledford.

Kids can also get in on the action for $20 by painting a 2- by 2-foot square in the Via Bambino Children’s Art Area. The squares come with a box of chalk pastels and proceeds from this particular activity go back to the Bakersfield Museum of Art’s art education programs.

Many of the same artists participate each year, which regular attendees will notice. However, it continues to grow and with that, comes new faces and perspectives.

The featured artist this year is Art Sherwyn, who has been a longtime participant and contributor to the event and the museum. He and his team will paint a collage on the largest Via Arte square to date – a massive 14- by 20-foot square – Ledford explained. Sherwyn’s theme will be traditional classic Italian street painting, also celebrating the 20 years of Via Arte.

More than 200 artists are expected to participate in this year’s event.

Ledford said the most exciting part of the festival, for the staff, is being part of the community’s largest public art exhibition.

“Via Arte has a 20-year legacy that we’re all proud to carry on,” he said. 

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