Tracy Stum is spearheading a push to see if we can get street painting & chalk drawing into the LA Museum of Modern Art show coming up on Street Art, which features mostly graffiti. Many of us street painters believe this old (began in the 1500’s) and recent emerging art form is and should be acknowledged by the art world.

Here is the letter I wrote to the coordinator to the show.

Pure and simple, chalk drawing festivals are the rock and roll of the art world. Very different than strolling through a gallery with paintings on the wall and sculptures tucked into corners, at a chalk festival the creative process unfolds right in front of you. The artists are not alone in their studios, they are down on their hands and knees, covered in sweat and colored chalk, kneeling, squatting on the streets for hours and days, creating breathtaking pieces of art right before your very eyes. And you can crouch down with them. They’ll talk to you and tell you what they’re doing. Chalk drawing is the medium of the people, generating audiences of over 60,000 people of all ages in a weekend. It’s pure energy. And the next day, it”s washed away, impermanent like Tibetan and Navajo sand paintings.

Of course, street art is an age-old tradition, (since the 1500’s) which we artists pay homage to, not just by doing the work, but by emulating it. There a tradition of copying old master works, which is a great art history lesson in a culture that doesn”t have much of this in the schools. And many artists are stepping out and bringing  new skills, like 3D work, to the pavement, as well as fascinating anamorphic perspective to their work. Some street artist are taking the opportunity to communicate in ways that address current needs of the local and global community. One artist created an homage to another artist, a local hero who passed away from cancer. His work of art became an invitation for the community to write, draw, and creatively mourn her passing together. Another artist created a Patron Saint of Hoof & Mouth disease as millions of farm animals were being burned and buried in Europe. Another piece was created to bless with tears a near-by forest fire that had the locals concerned. Art work by the people, for the people.

My personal work in the street painting world started in 1994 when I was invited by master artist Phil Roberts, to help him with an 8 x 20 ft, 6 days copy of the Last Day of Judgment by Michelangelo. I was hooked. I loved the raw, real time, in your face, on your hands, live, connection to the community. There was something about doing art in the midst of a crowd that really fed me. I loved being alone in my studio, but I loved the live action of on the spot creativity.

In 2003 chalk drawing took a turn for me. My kids had just entered public school in Northern California and I realized to my horror that there were no art teachers in any of the elementary schools. I began to create annual chalk drawing events on the kid”s playground where the kids could work on one large image together. I had a vision; give the kids a big, creative experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. In 2008 we set a Guinness World Record for the largest chalk drawing. 6,000 people (over 4,000 elementary school kids) covered 90,000 sq. ft. in two weeks and a satellite photographed our artwork. We are now the nonprofit, Drawing on Earth; we inspire art and creativity in youth and communities around the world. Our current project is a 5-year Global Illustrated Storybook.

Street painting is alive and growing. It’s an art form that is catching the public”s attention and appreciation. Look what’s written on the back of a t-shirt from one of the big festivals. It says ARTIST in big, bold letters. And whether you wear it or see it, it sends a message that the creative spirit is alive and well!

Mark Wagner
Founder of Drawing on Earth