July 31, 2013

Youthville’s Chalk Art Festival comes to Old Town Square

Micala Gingrich-Gaylord says there are some things that take you right back to childhood, and sidewalk chalk is one of them.

Micala Gingrich-Gaylord says there are some things that take you right back to childhood, and sidewalk chalk is one of them.

“Youthville’s mission is to give children back their childhood,” she said. “I can’t think of a better way to do that than through chalk.”

Gingrich-Gaylord helped organize this year’s Sixth Annual Chalk Art Festival, where local artists and anyone who cares to join them will transform Old Town Square into a walkable canvas on Saturday. Local sponsorships and T-shirt sales will help support the local foster kids that Youthville serves.

“It helps buy formula for babies and graduation caps for the kids who stay with us,” Gingrich-Gaylord said.

The festival’s four featured artists will have three hours to use sidewalk chalk to transform 3-by-3-foot boards into works of art on the spot as gathered crowds watch. Festival sponsors will cover the cost of the supplies and pay the featured artists a small stipend. The festival will also feature live music, face painting and the chance for artists of all ages and abilities to leave their colorful marks on the sidewalks of Old Town Square.

This is the festival’s second year in Wichita; in previous years, it was held in Newton near Youthville’s residential treatment facility. Last year, when changes to the state mental health system closed down the facility, Gingrich-Gaylord had to leave her post at the facility’s Expressive Arts Center. She now is a development manager for Youthville, and she said she tries to do as much as she can to keep the arts alive among the children Youthville serves.

“When you’re a person who has experienced trauma, being able to imagine something different is very important,” she said. “When you take away the arts, you take away the capacity to build imagination.”

Lee Shiney, one of the festival’s featured artists, said he plans to mount his board to a turntable he has designed to produce giant circular designs. He said exposure to the arts gives kids “permission to do something a different way.”

Shiney said he enjoys working one on one with kids, and he likes the communal aspect of the festival, where artists and visitors alike can create works of art.

“I have to pick and choose which charities to work with,” Shiney said. “The ones that rise to the top are the ones that don’t just beg for a free piece of artwork.”

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