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Artists cover Farnam Street sidewalks at Omaha Chalk Art Festival

Artists cover Farnam Street sidewalks at Omaha Chalk Art Festival

The process is known as obvara, and it appears to be popular. Internet sites such as Pinterest and Etsy and art gallery pages feature hundreds of pieces like those Carolyn Fleming Fisch has on display at Omaha’s Artists Cooperative Gallery.

For artists at the third annual Omaha Chalk Art Festival, the sidewalks of Farnam Street in Midtown Crossing were their canvas.

This year’s festival features about 35 artists working on about 25 designs. They started Saturday and will finish their pieces Sunday.

Event artist director Michael Rieger runs the Chalk Art Festival in Denver and travels to help other cities with their festivals and create his own chalk paintings, he said.

Rieger was chalking a re-creation of Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Church at Auvers” on Saturday. The tradition of chalk art started in 16th century Italy, Rieger said, when painters would draw images, often of the Madonna, in the square. This led to the term “madonnari” to describe professional chalk artists.

Subjects for the festival’s artists ranged from famous paintings to pop culture references to the artists’ own designs.

Emily Pietrantone decided to pay homage to the work of medical professionals during the pandemic with her chalk art.

“I wanted to do something to thank all of the health care workers for the past year and a half,” she said.

George Timmins said this was his third year entering the festival. He was turning one of his own drawings into a vibrant chalk piece.

“I draw a lot of these characters,” he said. “I like comic book characters and superheroes, and I also like bright colors.”

Brothers David and Nick Yeoman teamed up to create a chalk piece featuring SpongeBob characters. They said they decided to team up because this was their first time creating chalk art.

“We end up drawing stuff that our kids like,” David Yeoman said of their choice to feature SpongeBob characters.

Amy Sreenivasam decided to re-create an intricate image of the world reflected through a tiger’s eye. She said she often does chalk and other art projects with her grandkids.

“My grandson loves tigers” she said. “And I’m kind of into preserving animals myself, too.”

The public is invited to watch the artists as they continue their work in Midtown Crossing on Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Spectators can also vote on their favorite piece through the festival’s “people’s choice award.”

The contest’s judges will consider both the finished pieces themselves and the process the artists used to create them, Rieger said.

“This is a performance-based medium,” he said. “The idea is to watch as the art is being created.”


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