Aside from relentless rain or bitter cold, what could possibly deter throngs of tourists from traipsing all over Ocean Drive on any given weekend? Chalk, that's what. The bittersweet reminder of endless childhood days spent in the classroom nevertheless will attempt to attract visitors no longer haunted by sneeze-inducing dust and squeaking sounds to Absolut Chalk Miami Beach.
For centuries artists have adorned piazzas and boulevards of the world's great cities with striking images. Sponsored by Absolut Vodka and billed as the world's largest street fair, Absolut Chalk brings creative types together to embellish streets using only chalk and their limitless imaginations. Harking back to a century-old festival that takes place in a small Italian town, the showcase has featured some of the world's most celebrated Madonnari, or street painters, since 1992.
This weekend on Miami Beach more than 250 amateur and professional artists will create murals ranging from modern to classical. A highlight will be two centerpieces designed by a group of locals whose styles are as diverse as their backgrounds. Depicting the amalgamation of cultures and languages in Miami, one centerpiece, titled Absolut -- ly Elemental, will be constructed by a group from Art Center/South Florida. Lazaro Amaral, Lysa Rodriguez, Alekxey Sabido, Kristen Thiele, and Juanita Meneses will merge Cuban, Anglo, Mexican, and Colombian pasts to form the work. "I am glad to participate," says Sabido. "Together the five of us will make something very beautiful and colorful, picturing everything seen in Miami, from dogs to saints." Renowned Brazilian artist Romero Britto will produce the second centerpiece.
The festivities will benefit the Light Bringer Project, a California-based nonprofit organization that supports cultural arts programs, and Art Center/South Florida. Everyone is encouraged to participate or simply urged to watch beauty bloom where cracked pavement and discarded chewing gum once existed. Attendees also can take part in street-painting workshops, enjoy ethnic food, and sample the new Absolut Artini cocktail. The festival concludes Sunday afternoon, when peers review the work and dole out awards.