Lake Worth’s Street Painting Festival getting bigger, busier

3:27 p.m Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 Local
David Lepore, a Wellington artist, paints Star Wars’ Princess Leia at the 23rd Annual Street Painting Festival in downtown Lake Worth. (Kevin D. Thompson/The Palm Beach Post)

Ask Maryanne Webber, executive director and artistic coordinator of the 24th Annual Street Painting Festival , why she’s still so involved in the event after more than two decades and she’ll tell you.

“Because of the inspiration the festival gives to the young,” says Webber. “That’s something that’s so different with our festival over other street painting festivals in the country. It inspires so many young individuals.”

Webber says she just got an email from a young lady who wanted to know how she could become a featured artist. The lady, who started painting in the festival in the fifth grade and who is now a high school junior, was told it takes time and practice. Webber said the decision is based on past performances and your portfolio.

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“She was so excited,” Webber says. “It was so emotional for me. This is what the festival has done to encourage young people to pursue a career in art and design and to believe in themselves.”

On Feb. 24 and 25 more than 600 artists will turn Lake Worth’s Lake and Lucerne avenues into their personal canvas for the festival, touted as the world’s largest by organizers. It’s estimated more than 100,000 people will attend, a far cry from the 7,000 people who came to the first festival in 1994 that was held on J, K, L and M streets.

All paintings are made of chalk. There will be 250 of them this year, a little down from the 270 last year, Webber says

“Last year I went overboard,” she says. “It’s harder and harder to find space for them because the crowd has gotten so big.”

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The paintings, of course, are temporary, only remaining until cars return downtown, with tires acting as giant erasers or the rain washing them away. The festival is produced by Street Painting Festival Inc., a local nonprofit. It’s free and starts at 10 a.m. There’s also music at the Cultural Plaza and several food courts.

This year, expect to see murals on four-sided cubes that will later be installed around Lake Worth. “It’s a celebration of the CANVAS Outdoor Museum Show and all the different, wonderful murals we have,” Webber says.

Organizers will also have a total of six shuttle buses stationed at Palm Beach State College. Last year there was only two.

“This became more popular than we envisioned,” said Nadine Burns, a festival producer. “So we’re bringing in four more buses to accommodate people.”

Tri-Rail, Burns adds, also offers free shuttles for their ticketed passengers. “Anyone coming by Tri-Rail gets a free ride to the Street Painting Festival,” she says.

While organizers are focusing on this year’s festival, Webber says they’ve also been thinking about the 25th anniversary festival happening next year. “I told Nadine, let’s try to keep this year a mellow, wonderful event so we can have the energy for all the things we’re going to need to do next year for the 25th festival,” Webber says, laughing.