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May 26

¡MIRA! Chalk the Plaza

Posted on May 26, 2023 at 1:17 PM by Taylor Jensen

Get ready for the first Chalk the Plaza pavement art competition. The City Art Board is hosting the chalk art event as part of the Mira! Las Cruces Spring Festival taking place on April 29. Vote for your favorite and help them win the People’s Choice prize. There is also a Best of Show prize, voted on by the City Art Board. I wish there could be a prize for all; they will be that good.  

People seem to enjoy watching the process of creating pavement chalk art. The medium has a long history and is considered a difficult art technique to master.  It is often 2D artwork, some ventures into 3D. These masterworks of dimensional space and art are some of my favorites.   

3D street art is based on the trompe l’oeil art technique that literally translates to “deceive the eye.” This technique was and still is used to paint artwork on ceilings or anywhere that the illusion of depth and space is desired. The technique of doing 3D pavement art is known as anamorphosis, which creates the realism effect when viewed from the correct angle. 

Chalk art on streets goes back to 16th century Europe. In Italy, madonnari (street artists) would travel from festival to festival drawing religious icons for coins. In London, chalk artists appeared in the mid-1800s and were called “screevers”, in reference to the written messages in their drawings. Screevers became popularized by the character “Bert” in Disney’s Mary Poppins movie.  

Actor Dick Van Dyke as Bert, creating chalk art on cement.

Actor Dick Van Dyke as Bert the screever in Disney's Mary Poppins movie. photo credit: Still from Walt Disney's Mary Poppins,1964. 

American artist Kurt Wenner, is credited for bringing the Italian madonnari technique to the United States in the ‘80s, introducing the art form at the first chalk walk festival in America in 1986. He created his own technique known as hyperbolic perspective, and is considered one of the best along with other anamorphosis pioneer artists Edgar Müller, and Julian Beever. Wenner established several other festivals, including the Pasadena Chalk Festival, which is considered one of the world’s largest. 

3D style chalk art of Spiderman and skyscrapers, by Kurt WennerSpiderman, Universal Studios, Osaka, Japan Artist: Kurt Wenner Photo credit:

Chalk art of woman in pool by Julian Beever on sidewalk.Artist Julian Beever used the anamorphosis technique for his design. This photo was taken from the correct angle. photo credit:

Chalk art by Julian Beever on sidewalk.This is the same design from the wrong angle. photo credit:

Chalk art of waterfall on street, by Edgar Muller.Edgar Müller covers an entire street with this waterfall design. The people in the photo pose in the realistic looking pavement art. Photo credit:

Chalk art on street, by Edgar Muller.Same artwork from the wrong angle. Not so realistic looking anymore. photo credit: 

Closer to home, El Paso has an annual Chalk the Walk festival that attracts thousands of spectators. Local artist Bob Diven coordinated a well-attended chalk competition for several years downtown on Main St. Recently, the Museum of Art held a Chalk Walk event which attracted hundreds of people who watched the artists create their drawings in the museum's courtyard.  

Flyer of Chalk art with the description: Here's the art of Chalk Walk March 11, 2023Art work by participating artists of the Chalk Walk event held at the Museum of Art in March. photo credit: Facebook @LCMuseums 

The City Art Board will host their pavement art event with the hope of possibly growing it into an annual destination event. The pioneers in this case are the artists who are participating in the first Chalk the Plaza. Not because they have never participated in other chalk art events, but because their work will be seen by all the people drawn to the first Mira! Las Cruces Spring Festival. Street art is done by kneeling, bending, and sitting on the hard ground – it is grueling, physical work. And it requires specific knowledge and training. Mixed with the natural talent and creativity of the artist, it’s no wonder that so many are fascinated by the process and appreciate the artwork created at chalk art events.

Chalk the Plaza artists will be competing for two prizes: Best of Show and People’s Choice. Please come by and vote for your favorite and tell the artists how much you appreciate their efforts. Chalk the Plaza takes place on Saturday, April 29 from 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. as part of the Mira! Las Cruces Spring Festival  from 2:00 p.m. –10:00 p.m. Both events will take place at the Downtown Plaza and are free to the public.  

Rubber Ducks blog is brought to you by the Las Cruces Public Art program to share ideas, information, discussions, trends, and all things public art. Please send comments and ideas for future blogs to

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