This year, the festival is sponsored by the Kayenta Arts Foundation in partnership with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and carries the theme “Celebrating the Desert Tortoise.” Professional artists, many of whom call Kayenta home, are challenged with creating lifelike murals entirely from chalk in the parking lot of the art village. Some are paid by sponsors, others are simply motivated by creating art for art’s sake, but all are competing for the People’s Choice Award and bragging rights.
Talented sixth to 12th grade students from local schools entered their masterpieces in the student competition, judged by a panel of qualified art professionals. Kevin Pfunder, an art teacher at Fossil Ridge Intermediate School, was accompanied by four groups of youth who created likenesses of Iron Man, King Crimson, Bob Marley and Spiderman.
“It’s really coming along,” Pfunder said. “I’m proud.”
“I would love to do this again. It’s been a great experience,” said Tuacahn High School student Cheyenne Garcia, who co-created “Abstract,” a chalk portrait of a human face. “I always want to have art in my life.”
Some 20 professional artists began working on their masterpieces early Saturday morning, hours before the festival opened to the public. Stephanie Long, who is painting a recreation of a photo she took while hiking with her dog in the red rocks of Ivins for sponsor Southern Utah National Conservation Land Friends, started at 8 a.m. and was nearly halfway done at 4 p.m.
“It takes a while to build all the color,” Long said. “I fill in the base colors first and work my way up to the brighter shades.”
Aside from long hours on their hands and knees, artists struggled with the conditions. A stiff breeze blew from early afternoon well into the evening and played havoc with the fine chalk.
“It’s horrible; as soon as we get one layer down, the wind picks it up,” Pfunder said. “We’ve been set back hours in our progress and burned through four or five times the chalk we should have. That part’s a little disappointing, but the kids are loving it.”
Keeping with the festival theme, art lovers of all ages collaborated with the professional artists in attendance to create a colorful interactive mural of a desert tortoise crawling towards the sun, measuring about 200 square feet in size. The audience was also treated to performances by young singers and dancers from the Spotlight Performing Arts Center, violinist Cameron Hansen, the Tuacahn Jazz Ensemble, the Sassy Seniors Tap Dancing Troupe, guitarist Josh Larsen and the Red Mountain Elementary School choir.
More than 1,200 people and even one desert tortoise, accompanied by a representative from the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, attended the festival Saturday; higher numbers are expected Sunday.
“The crowd is great,” said Randy Segura, a professional artist from Denver who entered in the chalk competition.
On Sunday, attendees can look forward to performances by folk group Beans n’ Wheels, the Native American Flute Circle, guitarist Hannes, rock band The Wizards, guitarist Jerry Allen and bluegrass group Still House Road. Featured artist Lysa Ashley will create a three-dimensional painting that, when complete, will offer a unique photo opportunity by allowing visitor to pose within it. In the festival’s finale, the People’s Choice Award winner, determined by attendee vote, will be revealed.
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Event details and contact information
- Date: April 13 and 14
- Time: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Location: Coyote Gulch Art Village, Kayenta
- Admission: Free
- Contact: Aimee Bonham – 435-817-7449
Email: [email protected]
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