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Two Harbors' Chalk.a.Lot festival returns July 14

Chalk.a.Lot's featured artist, Truman Adams, stands in front of a piece depicting himself as the Greek god of wine, Bacchus.(Photo submitted)

Sidewalks around Waterfront Drive in Two Harbors will receive an artistic upgrade Saturday, July 14, as the fifth biennial Chalk.a.Lot festival returns.

The festival, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in and around Thomas Owens Park, includes chalk and pastel street and sidewalk art, music, food, activities, performances and viewing for all.

The festival is back after taking a year off to regroup and gather input for collaborations. Organizer Michelle Gratton said the year off allowed her to find the help she needs to put on the ever-growing festival.m

"When we started this festival in 2012, we had 25 drawings and and maybe 100 people viewing the art," Gratton said. "In the fifth year, there were over 150 drawings and about 3,000-4,000 people viewing, which takes a lot of organization and people to pull off."

Gratton started the festival after she was inspired by a similar event in Wausau, Wis.

"I moved here from Wausau and the year I moved here, they started a chalk festival there," Gratton said. "And I thought, 'Dang, I missed out on something really fun.'"

A few years later, Gratton worked with the late Ellen Anderson to organize the first event. Gratton also received help from the organizers of the Wausau event. The festival continued to grow every year until 2017 when it was canceled due mostly to lack of assistance.

Pete Barnett works on his drawing of the Nintendo character Mario during Chalk.a.Lot in 2015. (News-Chronicle file photo)"It's grown to the point that I need the help to be able to put this on," Gratton said. "People in the community decided this was something they wanted to see continue, so they reached out and we worked together for this year."

The festival, sponsored by Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, the two Harbors Area Foundation and Cooperative Light and Power, features an opportunity for community members and artists to draw. Artists who wish to contribute a whole sidewalk square can register ahead of time for $20 or at the festival for $25, and receive a pastel kit with 24 colors and an assigned square.

Gratton plans to host an informal "tips and tricks" session Friday, July 13, for artists who haven't worked with the medium before.

"I highly recommend people come with a drawing in mind or one that they've designed in advance and have a plan for action. It's more satisfying and makes for a beautiful presentation on our sidewalks," Gratton said.

For more casual chalk artists and those with children, Gratton recommends the free chalk space on the street, which will be blocked off on Waterfront Drive from Second Avenue to Fourth Avenue. This space provides free chalk for people to play around with. However, Gratton reminds attendees that children must be over age 12 or be accompanied by someone over the age 12 to participate.

This year's festival will also feature artwork by two local artists, Mary Plaster and Moira Villiard of Duluth, and a 3D work by street artist Truman Adams.

Every artist who pays a registration fee receives a box of pastels and a sidewalk square. (News-Chronicle file photo)This is the Sarasota, Fla.-based artist's first trip to Minnesota since he started working with chalk in 2009. Adams first started with chalk art in 2009, when his 8-by-10-foot piece was the smallest in the large chalk festival. Adams said he found himself drawn to the medium and kept working in it.

"Two years later I found myself working on the largest piece in the Sarasota fest by myself. A 30-by-40-foot 3D," Adams said. "Then, in March of 2017, I found myself in Dubai competing for a $300,000 USD first-place prize against 24 other artists."

What does Adams like about working with chalk and pastels?

"I love how chalk has opened me up as an artist," Adams said. "It’s a dry medium, but still considered a painting medium rather than a drawing. I love the speed at which I can work with pastels by mixing the colors right on the street or sidewalk, rather than on a pallet or in a cup."

Adams' work will be featured in the Lake County Health and Human Services building's parking lot. Adams said he's planning on making a Candyland themed piece.

Register for the festival at

Contact Michelle Gratton to volunteer at 218-590-4532. She is seeking volunteers to help with setup on Saturday, take-down on Sunday and registration.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. 

(218) 834-2141