Big broad strokes of pure brilliant color will transform Riverside Park into a super-sized art gallery, and Oregon's largest street painting will materialize from the pavement with convincing realism — as if viewers are standing on the rim of Hellgate Canyon itself.
On Saturday and Sunday, October 3-4, Grants Pass will present the Art Along the Rogue Street Painting and Music Festival. More than 40 local and regional artists will create 8-by-8-foot pastel chalk drawings during the annual event, which also includes a community art show, food, craft vendors and live music. The popular festival moves this year from downtown Grants Pass to Riverside Park.
What: Art Along the Rogue Street Painting and Music Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday, Oct.
3 & 4
Where: Riverside Park, Grants Pass
Admission: Free; $5 for pastels and a two-foot square of pavement
Call: 476-5510 or visit www.artalongtherogue.com
"Riverside Park is our ultimate destination," says event coordinator Jeff Jones. "Now we really are 'Along the Rogue.' We wish we'd thought of it five years ago."
It's a scenic setting for contemporary artists reviving an ancient tradition. In 16th-century Italy, itinerant artists followed religious festivals, chalking works of art in public squares for food or coins. Often they painted images of the Madonna, earning the name "Madonnari."
"The Madonnari brought art to the common folk who never went into cathedrals, never got to see great paintings," explains festival artist Cathy Gallatin of Medford.
That tradition continues this year with renditions of famous impressionist paintings. Artists like Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Vincent van Gogh first painted their shimmering, light-filled canvases 150 years ago, a link to the festival's theme of "Oregon 150."
Oregon's largest street painting, an 18-by30-foot view of Hellgate Canyon, will be created by nationally known artist Tracy Lee Stum of Ventura, Calif., and three local festival artists; Ann DiSalvo of Ashland, Janet Gogué of Grants Pass and Gallatin.
Stum is a master of anamorphic perspective, which imparts the vividly realistic illusion of three dimensions. Explains DiSalvo, "You can stand at the edge of our painting and have a photo taken that will look as if you're falling into the canyon."
For artists, the festival is filled with inspiration and conversation.
"I do it every year," says Gogué. "I love, love, love it. It's just so fun. The people are the most fun of all. People get excited, they talk to the artists. It's stirring emotionally somehow. It's a joy to see."
"Artists usually work in isolation," says DiSalvo. "Here you're exposed and interact with people. Some have really good questions, some have stories to tell."
It's a joyful experience, but working big on a low, hard surface is physically challenging for artists.
"I call it 'The Agony and the Ecstasy'," jokes Gallatin. "It's very painful, but at the same time you're part of something bigger than yourself. You just go for it no matter what. You have to cowgirl up. When you come through to the other side it's great."
The most compelling part of the festival is the poignant knowledge that the artistic beauty is only temporary.
"It's so extravagant because it's gone the next day. That bothers some people, but I say it's chalk art, it's supposed to go away. If you want to see it, you have to be here. Here today, gone tomorrow," says Gogué.
Gallatin sums it up, "Its amazing something so temporal can bring so much joy."
The public is encouraged to try their hand at becoming modern day Madonnari. For $5, visitors may purchase pastels and a two-foot square of pavement.
Live music at the festival will include regional performers Jon Galfano, Shae Johnson and the Flat Five String Band, Siskiyou Summit, Oregon Little Big Band, The Wendi Stanek Trio, The Mixers, Monk and the Southern Oregon Jazz Orchestra.
Festival hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 476-5510 or visit www.artalongtherogue.com.
Reach freelance writer Kate Hannon at firstname.lastname@example.org