Out the window: chalk art at Denver International Airport

Denver-bound this weekend? Then be on the lookout for this:

200 professional and amateur chalk artists will be creating temporary, dusty masterpieces as part of the eighth annual Denver Chalk Art Festival this weekend (June 5 and 6, 2010) on Larimer Square.

To promote the event  – and have some fun – Southwest Airlines (the official airline of the Denver Chalk Festival) invited 17 chalk artists out to Denver International Airport on Wednesday and asked them to create a pair of chalk masterpieces on the ramp between two Southwest gates.

Curious about the chalk art and the Denver Chalk Festival ? Here’s some ‘chalk talk’ from the event organizers:

The event follows street painting traditions that originated in 16th century Renaissance Italy when artists began transforming asphalt into canvas using chalk.  The artists were called “madonnari,” after their customary practice of recreating chalk paintings of the Madonna.  Historically, madonnari were known for their life of travel and freedom, making their living from coins received from passers-by.

With World War II came many hardships, greatly reducing the number of these artists.  The art form was not officially brought back to life until 1972 when the small town of Grazie di Curtatone in Italy started the first International Street Painting Competition.  Today, artists worldwide are taking to the streets, bringing with them new ideas, techniques, and excitement for this ancient form of expression.  Handmade French pastels have replaced the simple chalks previously used and the paintings have become complicated images of traditional master-style works, modern pieces, and surreal chalk originals.

…..[O]one might ask, ‘why street paint when the artists’ efforts disappear immediately?’  As avid street painters will tell you, this is performance art, where the process of creating the work is more important than the finished piece….