Creating artwork can be a messy job.
Ask Lauren Johnson. The 18-year-old graduate of Tacoma School for the Arts was working on a 5-by-7-foot replica of a painting by Leonid Afremov. Except this rendition wasn’t oil on canvas; it was chalk on sidewalk.
Johnson used only 12 chalk sticks, but from those she created numerous hues of colors, including the striking oranges and deep blues that dominate "Alley by the Lake."
She was only about a fourth of the way through finishing her work early Friday afternoon, but chalk dust completely covered her hands, arms, shirt and jeans.
"You kind of get it everywhere," she said. "But it’s just part of using chalk. I don’t really mind it."
Johnson was one of dozens recreating paintings on the sidewalks that line Tollefson Plaza and the campus of nearby University of Washington Tacoma during the two-day Showcase Tacoma festival. Hundreds of others browsed the paintings and took in the objets d’art for sale before rain later in the afternoon drove many of them away.
One of Johnson’s classmates from SOTA, 18-year-old Katie Gregory of University Place, was chalking a rendition of Salvador Dali’s "The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition." The Spaniard’s artwork might have survived decades of critical study by thousands of stuffy art professors, but Johnson’s recreation of the painting didn’t last through Saturday morning.
"I chalked for hours (Friday)," Gregory said, "and I almost had it done. But then it rained overnight. When I got out here, it had all smeared into one giant blob."
So Gregory, who will attend the University of Washington Tacoma in the fall, was back at work Saturday afternoon. She mixed with her hands the yellows, oranges, browns and blues that fill Dali’s 1934 work.
But chalk artistry was just one part of the festival. Lining the sidewalks were booths selling everything from clothes to fortune cookies to face painting. Singers and dance troupes performed for crowds.
Kathy Lake drove from Kent to attend poetry readings.
"Since I live in Kent, I don’t always know what’s going on in Tacoma," the 66-year-old retiree said. "This way I can check out what’s going on down here and listen to some poetry."
But visual art took center stage. Dozens of galleries from around the area set up booths to sell pottery, paintings and blown-glass sculptures.
"This has been a good way to get our name out there and make our presence known," said Holly Brown, co-owner of The Lakewood Gallery. "I know there’s a vibrant arts community in Tacoma, and this helps a lot of them realize that there’s some good art down in Lakewood, too."
Mark Sigafoos, a co-owner of Tacoma Glassblowing Studio, shared the same sentiment.
"People will just swing by and say, ‘Oh, wow, here’s something pretty cool for sale,’ and they’ll just buy it on the spot," he said. "So this has been a great venue for us."