Street art festival in Bay City goes virtual and attracts national attention

Bay City’s annual Chalk Walk Art Festival goes national this year with contestants coming from as far away as Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah.

Typically, the annual festival takes place in Downtown Bay City. Artists create chalk masterpieces on the streets. Live music and more has been part of past events. The COVID-19 crisis forced organizers to turn the 2020 event into a virtual one.

In the virtual event, people create their art anywhere and upload a photo to a website to enter the contest. The move has been so successful that Studio 23 Executive Director Tara Welch says she plans to offer both in-person and online versions of the contest in 2021.

Sarah Duncan was the 1st place winner in the Adult Division of the 2019 Bay City Chalk Walk Art Festival.
“What we’re learning is we want to keep an online component going forward,” Welch says.

The 2020 Chalk Walk Art Festival takes place Aug. 15-22. Divisions include Adult (16 and up), Teen (between 13 and 17 years old), and Youth (between 6 and 12 years old). Registration is open until Aug. 15. The entry fee is $12 for adults and $6 for teens and youth.

Each artist can submit one piece of art. All work must be original. The hashtag #bcchalkwalk must be included to ensure the art was created for this competition. The artist’s name also must be written next to the piece. No size restrictions exist.

The judging criteria includes originality, technique, composition, and saturation of color.

So far, about 20 teams or individuals have signed up for the contest. Welch says she usually gets most of the entries in the two weeks before the contest. Last year, 93 individuals or teams entered the contest. “We were maxed out last year,” she says.

Organizers have reached out to past participants as well as arts organizations throughout the nation in order to attract entries.

Lillian Graves took 1st place in the Youth Division with a classic fruit bowl at the 2019 festival.
“We actually have participants from six different states,” Welch says. “We think it’s really cool to have people from other states.”

This marks the second online chalk art festival for Welch. In April when the coronavirus forced Studio 23 to temporarily close its doors, the studio held an online chalk art competition. The event encouraged people to get outside and bring a little color and creativity while following social distancing guidelines. Read more about the April contest here.

To see some past entries, click here to view the Chalk Walk Art Festival Facebook page.

Judges this year include:

  • Mark Piotrowski, who teaches art at Bay City Public Schools and owns MARKed Arts
  • Terry Basmadjian, who teaches art at Saginaw Valley State University
  • Amy Pobanz, who teaches art at in Bangor Township Public Schools
  • Josh Sharrow from City Market

Sponsors include Thelen Subaru, Golden Gallery & Custom Framing, and Studio 23/The Arts Center.