Street Painting Festival will turn Lake Worth into a giant canvas

Ask Hector Diaz what he loves about the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival and he’ll give you a ready-made soundbite.

“I love the pain and suffering of creating art on pavement,” he said, laughing.

But, in all seriousness, the West Palm Beach artist, and one-half of the team known as The Chalk Guys, has been coming to the festival the past 20 years for a reason.

“It’s less about the finished piece and more about the interaction with the crowd and people asking you questions,” said Diaz, who has created The Beatles famous “Abbey Road” album cover and an X-Wing starfighter from the “Star Wars” movies in recent years with his artist partner, Ken Mullen. “It’s a very Zen art form and you leave everything on the pavement, people enjoy it and then it’s gone. I like that.”

On Saturday and Sunday more than 600 artists will turn Lake Worth’s Lake and Lucerne avenues into their personal canvas for the 22nd Annual Street Painting 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 260 of them this year. 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.

Art work ranges from masterpieces to cartoon characters. No commercial or political statements are allowed, with artists required to submit what they plan to create with their application.

This year there will be a few new wrinkles, said Nadine Burns, festival producer:

- Some of the 3D art work, most notably Adam Raizin’s “Before I die I want to…” chalkboard box on wheels, have been moved to Lucerne Avenue, west of L Street. “We wanted to create more interest and take advantage of that quiet space where nothing is really happening,” Burns said.

- Bessenroth Builders, a West Palm Beach construction company, is also bringing in two, 20-foot shipping containers that will be wrapped in plywood for selected artists to create murals. “People can get a different perspective on how art is created,” Burns said.

- To make the festive flow better, organizers have also spaced out the artwork, with more works being shifted to K Street. “We don’t want the crowds to feel as if they can’t get close to the paintings to watch the artists work,” Burns said.

- To make it easier for people to get to and from the festival, free shuttles will make timely loops from the Lake Worth Tri-Rail station. Or, people can park their cars at the north side of Palm Beach State College’s campus,west of Lake Worth, and ride a free shuttle to the festival.

Shuttles run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

Putting on such a big festival presents its challenges. At the top of the list, Burns said, is raising money. “People just believe it’s always going to happen,” she said.

Organizers need to raise about $85,000 to pay for such necessities as security and trash collection services, Burns said. The festival costs $300,000 to produce, but organizers rely on in-kind services.

There has been some talk about expanding, said Maryanne Webber, an executive director and artists coordinator who has helped producer every festival since it started. “I don’t see how that can happen” Webber said. “The only place to expand would be east or west and then you’re on Dixie or Federal highways.”

Adds Burns: “We’re about as big as we’re going to get with the footprint we have.”

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