Chalk art comes to life at Central MA Science Festival


By David Dore

Apr. 15, 2019

Several days’ worth of learning, drawing, coloring and shading led to the moment Saturday afternoon when the classroom-sized work of art was completed.

This creation, though, was not meant to last — although it will be remembered through photographs and in the minds of the students and artists who worked on it.

People who stopped by Saturday’s sixth annual Central MA Science Festival at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster could see the 3D chalk art piece take shape. Appearing to come out of a pond was a pair of green dragon-like creatures with pink fins, based on the two giant serpents from Greek and Roman mythology that killed the Trojan priest Laocoon and his two sons.

Working alongside the teenagers throughout the day were two world-renowned chalk artists, Kurt Wenner and Julie Kirk Purcell. Wenner is considered the innovator of 3D pavement chalk art, and is credited with bringing the art form to the United States. He and Kirk Purcell have traveled the globe creating 3D chalk pieces.

Wenner and Kirk Purcell spent a few days in Leominster with Denise Kowal, founder of the Sarasota Chalk Festival in Florida, passing on the history, tools and techniques of 3D chalk art to Boys & Girls Club members and students from Leominster High School and its Center for Technical Education Innovation, and the Sizer School and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School in Fitchburg.

According to Kowal, 3D pavement chalk art is a perfect fit for a place like the Boys & Girls Club, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. It incorporates math through understanding geometry and perspective, she said, and chemistry through knowing how the products that are used “mix together.”

Kowal said she likes the unique nature of making 3D pavement chalk art, for both the artists and the people who are seeing them create.

The artists, she explained, are “being very vulnerable. They’re allowing people to watch them as they are sitting here creating. The art form is a very interactive art form. I think they’re the most creative and the most giving artists in the world because they are willing to put themselves out there, and before they even know how their products are going to turn out, and it’s all ephemeral. At the end of the day it is chalk, and if it rains it goes away.”

Saturday’s project, originally supposed to be done outside, was moved indoors because of rain. And it’s something that Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Donata Martin has wanted to bring to the Central MA Science Festival for a couple of years. It took a couple of board members meeting with Kowal in Florida to make it happen.

Kowal and Wenner “wanted so very much to work with Boys & Girls Clubs,” Martin said, noting that Wenner is a Boys & Girls Club alum from California.

“When he was approached by Denise, who runs the Sarasota festival, to do this, he really wanted to do this to give back to the Boys & Girls Club,” Martin said. “Having him here, having Julie, and then Denise coming up, who organizes the two big events, it’s more than what we could possibly have imagined doing.”

The hope, Martin said, is to make 3D pavement chalk art a permanent part of the science festival.

For this year’s participants, Kowal said, “they’ve already had an experience that they will remember forever. That’s what our goal is, is to create the experience and a learning opportunity. And in the end, if they end up with a beautiful 3D pavement painting to show the world, then that’s just icing on the cake.”