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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Chalk it up

Rebecca Marie Sasnett
Rebecca Marie Sasnett/The Daily Wildcat Muralist Gina Ribaudo blends brown and tan color chalk as she finishes her Frida Khalo chalk drawing in front of Park Place Mall on Sunday. Ribaudo has been creating murals for 20 years.

Many students find that maintaining any sort of motivation after spring break is practically impossible. Sources of inspiration seem to be few and far between as the homework load accumulates and the stress of keeping on top of everything depletes all energy and joy. However, the Park Place Mall may have just the thing to get those creative juices flowing and bring some much-needed inspiration to the rest of the semester.

According to the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, this Saturday and Sunday, the sidewalks of the Park Place Mall will transform into a beautiful museum of art with the fourth annual Park Place Chalk Art Festival. The richly creative atmosphere of the festival seems like an ideal place to reinvigorate the mind and soul for the long and busy days ahead. And as visitors walk amongst the large murals on the ground, they may have their own “Mary Poppins” moment — jumping into the chalk art and landing in a whole new world of opportunities.

Cait Blanton, communications director for the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance, gave some details as to what the Park Place Chalk Art Festival is all about.

“The goal is kind of two-fold,” Blanton said. “Park Place wants to use the arts to give their visitors an experience while they’re shopping — not just have people come to shop at the mall but also experience the surroundings and be able to engage with the local community. [It also gives] the local artists the opportunity to … display their creativity.”

While the event will showcase the sophisticated and refined work of many different muralists, the festival also invites the community to get on their hands and knees and chalk up the sidewalks.

“It’s really exciting to see the artists come a long way throughout the course of the day as they complete the murals,” Blanton said. “They’re pretty big; they’re six by eight, so … seeing the process is very exciting, but then also, we have the KidZone and a community collaboration mural, so if you’re really wanting to get your hands dirty, you can jump in there and create your own piece of art work. It’s a lot of fun. It’s just [an] exciting way to get out there and participate. You can show off your creative talents.”

Blanton added that potential artists go through an application process before being chosen to participate in the festival. Among the hand-picked artists for this year is Victor Navarro. Navarro, a contemporary Latin American artist, is not unfamiliar with the chalk art festival scene; he said that this will be his third year participating in the event.

“This year, I’m going to be drawing a folkloric woman from the state of Chiapas in Mexico,” Navarro said. “[The piece has] a beautifully embroidered dress with colorful flowers and some background, possibly some Mexican mountains or agaves, … just to feature some of the Mexican imagery that is known around the world.”

A quick glance at Navarro’s professional art resume will make it clear that his presence at the festival is definitely a privilege.

“I’ve been an artist most of my life and, in various years, I won different awards in Europe and France to be more exact,” Navarro said. “In Paris, I was featured at a showcase … at the Louvre. I won a silver medal from the senate of France, and I’m actually ambassador to the fine arts and literature of France to the USA [for] Le Mérite et Dévouement Français. And so, I cohost and direct the International Art Exchange between Southern Arizona and France every year.”

Currently, Navarro said that many of his pieces include butterflies and dragonflies incorporated with some poetry; he said that such art falls under the category of abstract expressionism. However, Navarro also harbors a passion for portraying folkloric imagery like what he plans to draw this weekend.

“My interest to participate in the chalk festival is to expose … my artwork as well as … render some folkloric imagery from Mexico since that’s my country of birth and our neighboring country,” Navarro said. “And to evoke a little bit more of [an] attention toward our Hispanic population in Tucson, Arizona, and our heritage.”

For those that find their way to the Park Place Mall over the weekend, be sure to stop by and strike up a conversation with Navarro, who said he appreciates and feeds off of audience participation.

“One of my favorite parts is the interaction with our Tucson citizens,” Navarro said. “We are outside painting on the floor, and from 9 in the morning to about 4 p.m., people come by and talk to you. [T]hey are just simply amazed at the colors and the figures that an artist can draw on the floor, being a very non-traditional space to draw or paint. … I love it, and I am very interested in … seeing their reactions.”

The Park Place Chalk Art Festival is a free event and will be held on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Follow Madison Scavarda on Twitter.

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