Rain doesn’t wash away fun at Lake Worth Steet Painting Festival

Not even an afternoon rain shower could deter Chantelle Meitz. She propped up a beach umbrella on a folding chair and created as dry a space as she could to work on the face of Harry Potter, boy wizard.

Michelangelo had to work with his head at some uncomfortable angles to paint the Sistine Chapel, even if probably not lying on his back, as popular legend has it.

But this — this was in the middle of a downtown street, in the rain, for a work of art that might not last the afternoon, let alone centuries.

“It’s fun to do it and you just have to take a chance with the rain,” Meitz said. “I’ve come here for 15 years. It rains a lot, and I couldn’t finish only once.”

The West Palm Beach resident surveyed skies that turned from sunny to temporarily soggy on the closing Sunday afternoon of the 2oth annual Lake Worth Street Painting Festival.

“Potentially twice,” she said.

No matter. Intermittent rain overnight Saturday and part of Sunday did little to dampen crowds that organizers estimated at least matched if not exceeded last year’s 100,000 turnout. It’s a free event, so there are no turnstyles for an official count, though streets appeared full and busy with thousands of spectators. They popped umbrellas, threw up rain hoods or ducked under awnings for the wetter interludes.

This year’s 20th anniversary event drew on a movie theme.

“We rolled out the red carpet for the 20th anniversary,” said Maryanne Webber, chairman and artist coordinator. “I never imagined we’d be doing this 2o years, but it has only become bigger and more phenomenal.”

Hundreds of artists from as far away as California took to the pavement with chalk, and there were some new twists, too, such as graffiti artists from Miami who worked on a vertical space. That was an exterior building wall, made over with a drop-cloth covering that turned into a mural with spray paint.

The collaborative creation of three artists, still in progress Sunday afternoon, featured a man listening to headphones in the middle and a gorilla’s face on one side. The work had no title and its theme would depend in part on how the artists interacted with each other, explained an artist who identified himself as Trek 6.

It’s an idea that might be expanded in future festivals, taking over entire alleys and complementing the traditional painting of the streets, organizers said.

Life is short and art is long, an ancient saying goes, but chalk paintings on a street are temporary by design.

Throw in some rain and they can get even more temporary. Rain is not uncommon at the event, so veterans are often prepared.

Some artists covered their work with plastic sheeting, taped to the pavement. A few erected tents over the work space. Others just left it to the elements and filled in or started over as time permitted.

There are even some advantages. Rubbing or blending chalk to smooth out the evidence of rain can sometimes bring out rich, creamy hues.

Meitz gestured to a neighboring rendering of the iconic “Jaws” movie poster of the 1970s, featuring a huge shark rising through blue water. Its creator had stepped away, like most of the artists, during the downpour.

If anything, the rain brought out the colors, she said. The wet look actually wasn’t so bad for a movie set on the water.

Children’s movies were a popular choice, from classics like “Fantasia” to the recently released “Frozen.”

Artists from 17 elementary, middle and high schools had designated areas to show their work.

The festival featured live music, food and official T-shirts with a 20th Anniversary theme — playing off the 2oth Century Fox logo, in keeping with the cinematic theme.

Tri Rail trains were packed, letting off students and families who walked in from the station, said event coordinator Nadine Burns.

“I think we easily matched last year’s crowds,” Burns said.

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