In a way, there is something very zen about Via Arte. Like elaborate sand mandalas that are immediately swept away after completion, there is an impermanence to the chalk art created at The Marketplace each year. But, like the Buddhist tradition, there is also an exquisite fragile beauty in these works.
Art Sherwyn has learned to embrace the ephemerality. Since the first street painting festival in 1998, the artist and educator has pulled together a team to create something special.
This year, Team Sherwyn-Hyatt (which includes fellow educator Linda Hyatt) will serve as featured artist. The group is a mix of family, friends and former students: Vikki Cruz, former Bakersfield Museum of Art curator; Sherywn's daughter, Liz, and her husband, Carlos Fierros; Michael Reuland, Clare Rossetto, Eloy Covarrubias and Kaytie Conley.
Curator Rachel Magnus wrote in an email, "We wanted a team who had been involved all 20 years, and the Sherwyn-Hyatt proposal did not disappoint! They are creating the perfect celebratory piece that honors not just the history of the festival but the history of art."
The team's artwork will depict of a birthday party with a special guest list of a who's who in the art world. That will include Whistler’s Mother, Michelangelo’s David, Vincent Van Gogh, Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali, among others.
"There’s a big cake at the party," Sherwyn said of the fun design. "They've got party hats and glasses on."
In honor of the festival's 20th anniversary, the team will execute the piece in a 12-foot-by-24-foot square. (The next largest square is 12 feet by 12 feet.)
"The preliminary process is intense," Sherwyn said Tuesday of the work that began with the design concept.
That work was broken into eight, 6-foot-by-6-foot pieces that were projected and drawn on paper. Sherwyn then took the paper back to his garage where he used a perforator that can mark holes in the paper for an outline. Thursday night, team members will tape the paper down and go over the holes with chalk to mark out the outline. Removing the paper, they'll then go in and start filling in the work in detail and adding color.
Sherwyn points out that everyone's process is different and that their team has to start a full day earlier in order to get it all wrapped up by Sunday. He expects this to take about 40 hours total with each artist playing to their strengths, whether it's figures, background, typography or something else.
Along with the featured piece, also new this year is a special 15-foot-by-15-foot square by Reema Hammad, who will recreate Cezanne's "Mont Sainte-Victoire." Her larger piece is in partnership with the Tejon Ranch Conservancy.
Erwin Ledford, museum's marketing coordinator, said that there will also be more of the largest squares (8-by-12 and 12-by-12).
Counting the two anniversary squares, there will be 96 artist squares including 4-by-6-feet and 7-by-7-feet spaces. That's along with 54 student squares and 620 Bambino squares, 2-by-2-foot squares that people can sign up for during the festival.
"Spectators can expect to see more sprawling chalk-art masterpieces than ever before," Ledford wrote in an email.
With past attendance estimated at around 10,000 through the weekend, expect a lot of people out appreciating the hard work that's created in days and gone by Tuesday.