Oberlin Blogs

Chalk Walk

August 16, 2012

Every summer, Oberlin has a citywide "Chalk Walk," a civic day of doodling on the sidewalk. Though most of the art is done by average citizens--including plenty of enthusiastic kids--the event also attracts stunningly good artists, some from quite a ways away. These more-serious artists bring their own chalk, usually arranged by color in large cases. Otherwise, people can use up to six sticks of really good quality, pastel-like chalk provided by the city. You simply go up to one of a number of small stands, get a number, and select the colors you want. You then find a sidewalk square and draw to your heart's content, remembering to write your number somewhere in the square. If there's anything left of your chalk when you are finished, you go return it. It's fun, low-key, and relaxing.

I was in Oberlin this summer, so I got to experience this first-hand. I drew in the morning and walked around admiring others' handiwork in the afternoon. Although many pictures were already complete, their creators gone, the sidewalks were filled with people still hard at work. I've never seen Oberlin so bustling, even during Commencement Week, when graduates, their parents, and alumni returning for class reunions fill up the place. This was the town at play, and it was a delight to see. Many people drew things from books, movies, or TV shows that they liked, and it was interesting what popped up the most frequently: Spongebob Squarepants appeared a couple of times, as did the characters from Adventure Time, a favorite of kids and college students alike. People also drew lots of aliens, spaceships, and fantastical creatures. There was a T-Rex bursting out of the sidewalk, a duel between Zeus and Poseidon, a world snake eating its own tail, a TARDIS, a computer keyboard with crazy keys (I did a few, but forgot to take pictures), a giant cupcake, the Beatles, and George Washington riding a walrus into space carrying broccoli.

But you can see for yourself.

A chalk drawing on a sidewalk

World snake, as promised. This was still in progress, obviously. I watched the artists carefully blending and smearing the chalk to get the blue-green scales of the snake and then outlining over it in black. These people are good.

Chalk drawing of cupcake

Giant cupcake, also as promised.

Chalk drawing of the earth
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Chalk drawing of a tree
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Below: a TARDIS and its artist. Say "TARDIS artist" five times fast . . .

Artist drawing with chalk

 

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Chalk drawing on a sidewalk

 

 

The main character from The Hunger Games popped up.

Chalk drawing of Katniss Everdeen

 

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Chalk drawing of a girls profile

 

 

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Outside the library is a concrete wall that a team of chalk artists was decorating with illustrations of the first film--a horse galloping--with each frame done in a different style.

Chalk drawings on a wall
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Chalk drawings on a wal
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The artists creates the drawings on the walk
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Chalk drawings of horses
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The Cutie Mark Crusaders from My Little Pony. (I have Bronie friends and consequently know far too much about the show and its non-four-year-old fanbase.) I took the first picture in the morning and the second in the afternoon, when it was finished.

Chalk drawing of a unicorn
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Chalk drawing of unicorns
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Chalk drawing of stick figures
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Chalk drawing of Poseidon
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Chalk drawings on sidewalk squares
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Chalk drawing of a dog
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The chalk art stretched for two blocks up and down Main Street on both sides of the road, and a little ways off to each side on College Street. The plaza in front of Hall Auditorium, however, was prime real estate. As you can see, it was crowded with artists and onlookers, all stepping very carefully indeed.

Kids draw with chalk
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Chalk drawing of Korra

Korra, from the sequel-series to Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Chalk drawings on sidewalk squares
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The silvery parts of the higher drawing are the sidewalk itself--a clever use of not drawing.

Chalk drawing of a rocket
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Chalk drawing of a dragon
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Chalk drawing on a sidewalk square
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Chalk drawing of Starry Night

Got my shadow in this one, but I kind of like it.

Chalk drawing of someone holding an umbrella
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Chalk drawing of The Beatles

The Beatles. The small white text reads, "Minus Ringo :( " A half-complete Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle can be seen in the background, along with an army of stripes that will later become cupcakes.

Artists making chalk drawings

See? Cupcakes!

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People used their drawings to promote various messages, too--religious, political, or commercial.

Chalk drawing of a lighthouse

 

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Chalk drawing for CityFresh.org

 

 

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Chalk drawing  against fracking

 

 

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Chalk drawing of UPS advertisement


This was outside the UPS store.

 

 

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Chalk drawing of a cat
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Chalk drawing of a dinosaur
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Chalk drawing of George Washington

You thought I was kidding about George Washington, the space walrus, and the broccoli, didn't you?

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Responses to this Entry

One of the two makers of the George Washington crusading for the spread of broccoli to space is working with the webteam this summer and I just called her over to see that you had documented her work. LOVELY.

I adore Chalk Walk and I am SO glad you documented it! One of my favorite things about Obersummer, for sure.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on August 17, 2012 9:55 AM

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