Hira Humayun ’17
The streets of Northampton were adorned with elaborate works of chalk art on September 9 as “Arts Night Out” held its 7th Annual Northampton Chalk Art Festival. A number of artists got to work on the sidewalks of downtown Northampton, from the Smith College Museum of Art all the way to Market Street, starting as early as 10 am. Drawings took place from 10am to 4pm and the gallery walk took place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Arts Night Out is an event hosted by the art spaces of Northampton on the second Friday of every month. Aiming to promote a sense of community and encourage creative work, this interactive walk-through exhibition introduces city dwellers experience the distinct character of the city and engage in local culture. In collaboration with the Northampton Center for the Arts and the City of Northampton, Arts Night Out’s Chalk Art Festival was sponsored by Chartpak, Inc and the Northampton Radio Group.
Among some of the chalk artists taking part in this competitive chalking event were former prize winners, Brandon Avery, Linda Babcock, Jenn Falcon, Jennifer Gutterman, Robert Markey, Chrissy Neithercott, Paul Siqueira and Sloan Tomlinson experienced competitors Stephanie Gerolimatos, Mark Bodah and Matt Rodriguez, as well as newcomers such as Rob Kimmel, Sanket Sabnis and Jim DuBois.
“I’ve been making art for about 10 years, mostly as a painter, and I had a friend who did art, and I just tried it,” said DuBois, who had his paintings displayed downtown before venturing into the Chalk Art Festival.
The most interesting and challenging thing, he explained, was getting the chalk to stick to the sidewalk.
“There’s less pigment in it and it doesn’t stick as much and it kept blowing around in the wind. But afterwards I put water on a brush and brushed it over the chalk to make it look more painted. So like some of the blue areas look a bit more solid because of that,” he said about his colorful geometric design in front of Memorial Hall.
“This is the first time with chalk,” he said. “The windiness I think did affect it because the chalk is so loose. It was more pigmented, then the wind came up.”
Along the route were some art exhibitions such as one at Happy La Peartree Gallery, owned by former hair and makeup stylist Amanda Lamontagne on New South Street, where some of her paintings and chalk art were displayed.
“I’m self-taught,” said Lamontagne, who had created some of her own chalk art pears on the sidewalk leading up to the gallery. “I’ve never taken a painting class.”
“It’ll be two years in October since I’ve opened,” she explained. “Probably about five years ago I told myself that I was going to paint every day for a year and see what happens. I was just messing around on canvas and then I started posting my paintings on social media, and people started to buy them. And I started to realize I can actually do this, then I just quit my career and opened this place and go full throttle ever since.”
Having mainly worked with acrylic paint, Lamontagne explained how she uses some of the techniques she learned from painting and applies them to her chalk art.
“I feel like I always played with pencils and markers and crayons and chalk … I use the brush, with the chalk. So I took a paintbrush and I just used that to blend the chalk. So it was an experiment and it worked.”
As a Northampton resident, she has been involved with Arts Night Out since its opening. “I was going to use it as my platform to get exposure because everyone’s coming out for the arts anyway, so I figured I’d tag along, get on the map and get exposure.”
Another exhibition was set up inside Thornes Marketplace, called “Found A new life for dusty things” where artist Kevin Hill, had on display his sculptures made of, what he describes as “dusty, forgotten pieces of history.”
Behind Thornes was an open area where families were encouraged to create some of their own works of chalk art. Children and adults alike took to the streets with their buckets of sidewalk chalk to leave their own mark on the streets of Northampton.
Brightly colored, elaborate pieces of work were found along a variety of popular venues downtown, including Ode, Memorial Hall, Pinch, the Artisan Gallery,Cathy Cross/J. Rich, First Churches, Florence Bank, Don Muller Gallery on Main Street, Sylvesters, The Tunnel Bar on Strong Avenue and Click Workspace on Market Street.