by Kris Gruber
17 June 2021
Along with lemonade and hotdogs, words and images marking the pavement are synonymous with summer. The accessibility of sidewalk art is appealing, but there is something to be said for kicking it up a notch, and bringing it to the street. Chalk festivals showcase artists by using both a commonplace medium and platform to create often mind-blowingly uncommon -- and fleeting -- works of art.
High Plains Reader interviewed Mindi Schmitz, Executive Director of The Arts Center in Jamestown about the workings of the Center and Hansen Arts Park, as well as one of the featured artists, Shawn McCann, about his background and artistic vision. Both gave insight into Chalkfest and upcoming events and projects.
High Plains Reader: Tell us about your work with the Arts Center.
Mindi Schmitz: We do a little bit of everything at The Arts Center. We have an Arts After School program for kids 3-6 grade every day after school and an Artist in Residence contract with the schools in Jamestown, where we provide a professional artist to teach all of the elementary students art in Jamestown. We partner with an eldercare facility, Ava Maria, to provide an Art for Life program to their residents. We offer adult, family, and kid classes. And every Thursday starting the end of June through August we have the Downtown Arts Market in the Hansen Arts Park.
HPR: Hansen Art Park has a serene simplicity to it. What do you think people get from visiting there, and are there plans for further development?
MS: Serene simplicity, I’ve never heard it described as that, but it makes perfect sense. I think people love the fact that it is right in the middle of downtown Jamestown, a beautiful green space with works of art to admire. We have no plans for further development. We really love Hansen Arts Park as it is.
HPR: This is the first Chalkfest for Jamestown. What are you most looking forward to and what can people expect to see there?
MS: We are so excited for Chalkfest. Shawn McCann, a nationally-known professional chalk artist, is bringing with him eight other chalk artists to transform the street and Hansen Arts Park. Their work has brought them all over the world including Dubai and Epcot Center in Florida, just to name a few. I am sure that everyone who checks out Chalkfest will truly be amazed by the artists’ 3-D master-pieces. Shawn said that their artwork takes a day or two to complete, so visitors who come on Friday will have to come back on Saturday for the finale.
HPR: Are there any other fun summer programs or activities coming up?
MS: We have the Downtown Arts Market on Thursday evenings with live performances, artisan vendors, and art and cultural activities. Our summer camping program runs throughout the summer, ending with a summer musical. And of course, we always have art classes for adults and kids.
High Plains Reader: Can you talk a bit about the multidisciplinary aspect to your work and how your art has evolved?
Shawn McCann: Yes, well I started off graduating from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration. As an artist in my early career, I illustrated books, magazines, newspaper articles and anything else that came along. While I was doing this, I was also creating paintings in oil and displaying them in galleries. About four years after graduation, a client came along and asked if I could create one of my paintings in chalk and that changed the trajectory of my career. I started focusing on more street art and murals and it just took off from there. I enjoyed the challenge of creating temporary pieces of art and also large scale pieces with the permanent murals.
HPR: Commissions aside, do you have preferred subjects in your art?
SM: I love the art of the portrait. A lot of what I have been doing lately is a combination of my portrait work and street art.
HPR: Vibrant colors pop out at the viewer in your paintings and murals. Why is color important in conveying a message?
SM: I personally love how color can capture one's attention and bring you into the work of art. So many communities are stuck with beiges, grays and colors that are really muted down. On my travels abroad, I've loved seeing communities that have embraced bright colors in buildings, murals and the like and try to bring a little of that into the work I do.
HPR: You have traveled extensively and contributed to many street art festivals worldwide. Is there a particular piece you've done that had unforeseen challenges due to location?
SM: Two of the most challenging locations that I have worked were the Coloured Earth Festival in the United Kingdom and a series of murals I assisted on in Macau, an island territory of China. With Coloured Earth, we had rain almost the entire weekend and ended up having to create our pieces in a few hours instead of a few days. With Macau, we were constantly dealing with weather issues and tropical storms that were threatening to derail all of our work. But with every project outside, you really just need to step back and realize mother nature is in charge and just go with it.
HPR: What do you like about the use of chalk, and what is unique about chalk festivals?
SM: I love the ephemeral quality of the chalk art the most, with the notion that the art is only going to stick around for a limited time; I think the artists and the viewers take it in more knowing they won't ever be able to see these again. It really is magical to have such beautiful art created and then given back to mother nature (and sometimes power washers) to take away. I also really enjoy the ability to watch artists create throughout the festival. Everyone works a little different so seeing how each artist goes about creating their masterpiece really is fun to see.
HPR: I imagine summer provides lots of opportunities to showcase your work. What is on the docket for you?
SM: Yes, summer in the Midwest definitely brings out more work in the north and then in the winter it tends to shift to warmer climates. I have some really fun projects, including a project I am currently working on in Orlando, FL, street painting festivals that I am running in Jamestown, ND; Wahpeton, ND; Downtown Minneapolis Street Art Festival, and Arbor Lakes Chalkfest in Maple Grove. Beyond that I have numerous murals in North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida coming up. Going to be a fun and busy summer for sure.
IF YOU GO
Jamestown Hansen Arts Park
Friday and Saturday, 10am-6pm
November 17th 2022
September 14th 2022
August 17th 2022
May 18th 2022
April 21st 2022
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