Via Colori: Taking It to the Streets

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Photo by Abby Koenig
Lots more pictures from Via Colori can be found in our slideshow.

This weekend marked the annual Via Colori street painting festival. Now in its sixth year, the weekend-long festival brings the asphalt surrounding Sam Houston Park to life with art...literally. Artists from across the country, as well as a plethora of local talent, take it to the streets and create giant works out of chalk. Each artist is designated a portioned-off square within which to spend the weekend creating their pastel masterpieces.

The process kicked off Saturday morning and went through Sunday evening, giving patrons 48 hours to watch the artists in action. The squares range from 4x4 to 10x10, and that's feet! The works created also range in style, effort and talent. The genres displayed in this weekend's works were a delightful assortment of contemporary to classic, the "Creation of Adam" to a Keith Haring tribute, Warhol and Basquiat to Woody and Buzz (that's "Lightyear"). There are no criteria for what an artist can do with their square; it is just a matter of personal flavor.

Artist Richard Garcia, for example, has a penchant for period pieces and it shows up in his work. This is his fourth year participating in Via Colori and he enjoys it more each year. This time around, he created an impressive monochromatic, classic car. Unlike many of the artists, Garcia uses the chalk in its natural form. Others find it smoother to work with the chalk by crushing it up with water to create a chalky liquid and use it like you would any other paint.

"I feel the style of my images needs that look that the chalk straight to the pavement creates," Garcia tells us.

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Photo by Abby Koenig
Artist Richard Garcia

While many of the artists are repeat customers, there were quite a few newbies in this year's festival. Angela Openhaus was sought out through her involvement with artist resource Spacetaker. She decided to use her square, which was sponsored by the Children's Museum, to re-create Johannes Vermeer's famous "Girl with a Pearl Earring."

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Photo by Abby Koenig
Artist Angela Openhaus

"I wanted to do something that everyone would recognize," Openhaus explains.

And then there are those artists, like University of Houston Fine Arts student Matthew Tabor, who chalk to a tune of their own. Tabor turned his square into a Civil War setting, except with Abe Lincoln riding atop a T-Rex. The oversized square was certainly one of the weekend's most buzzed about pieces. Despite its political undertones, Tabor tells Art Attack that he just thought it was a funny idea. It was.

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Photo by Abby Koenig
Artist Matthew Taber

Scattered throughout the day, festival-goers enjoyed tunes from local bands such as Zydeco Dots, Klockwork, Spain Colored Orange and The Literary Greats on the main stage and Two Star Symphony, Ira Perez and Ancient Cat Society on the smaller, more intimate "lounge stage." The weekend ended with a no-joke, rocking performance from Houston's own Roky Moon and BOLT!

In addition to Via Colori being a family-fun weekend of free art, it happens to also be a fundraiser for The Center for Hearing and Speech, which is a resource center that teaches deaf children to listen and speak without the use of sign language.

Luckily for the artists and their chalk reliefs, the weather held, despite threats of thunderstorms. However, Via Colori always reminds us of a night in the life of Cinderella; tomorrow all of the stunning handiwork of the chalk-covered artist will disappear when the clock strikes twelve.

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