On Oct. 13 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Artpace’s Chalk It Up will cover newly renovated Main Avenue in elaborate chalk murals by San Antonio-based artists, school teams, and corporate and community partners.
The free festival will begin at Artpace’s door at 445 N. Main Ave. for the first time, which will bring more exposure to the organization’s storied facility where nine resident artists are invited each year to create ambitious contemporary art exhibitions. The festival will also spotlight an area of town experiencing a large influx of new development.
Artpace started Chalk It Up in 2004 as a fundraiser for its educational programming and to help revitalize a then largely neglected downtown. The festival helped bring locals and visitors alike to explore historic Houston Street well before former Mayor Julián Castro announced the “Decade of Downtown” in 2009. The mission of Chalk It Up is to activate San Antonio’s urban core in an accessible, family-friendly way.
Since 2004, Houston Street has seen rapid redevelopment as a historic thoroughfare. It is once again becoming a downtown destination with unique restaurants and coffee shops, entrepreneurial spaces such as Geekdom, connections to cultural destinations such as the River Walk, and the annual Chalk It Up festival. Now Artpace will relocate Chalk It Up to focus on another up-and-coming area of downtown: Main Avenue.
Main Avenue has undergone a significant renovation over the last year and now features a new roundabout, public art, and “complete streets” to support cyclists and pedestrians. However, the street is still a comparatively quiet part of downtown with few attractions for locals and visitors.
Artpace’s founder, philanthropist and artist Linda Pace, had a vision to transform an old automobile dealership on Main Avenue into a world-class residency program. Since it opened in 1995, Artpace has become one of the world’s most recognized catalysts for the creation of new art. More than 230 artists have been through its program, creating thousands of works of art that would otherwise not exist.
At the same time, Chalk It Up has grown from a small festival catering mostly to San Antonio’s artist community to one of the city’s most celebrated and well-attended fall festivals. With 3,000 attendees in 2004 to more than 28,000 in 2018, it’s clear that San Antonians want to engage with artists and value space for creative play.
This growth has also manifested in greater support for Artpace’s free public programs. As Artpace’s second largest fundraiser of the year, Chalk It Up provides critical funding that keeps the organization admission-free and open to the public year-round. While Chalk It Up raised $27,000 for Artpace programming in its first year, this year the event is expected to raise more than four times that amount.
The increased revenue also means more opportunity for local schools and San Antonio-based artists to showcase their work at the festival. Student groups compete in the Team Works mural competition that began with nine schools in 2004. This year, more than 70 school and community groups will face off and show their artistic expertise to tens of thousands of attendees.
Chalk It Up will also feature work by more than 20 professional artists including Borderland Collective, whose exhibition about global migration stories, One to Another, is currently on view at Artpace. Mark Menjivar, Molly Sherman, and Jason Reed of Borderland Collective will activate space in front of Artpace on Main Avenue with an interactive chalk-based project that invites attendees to consider unanswerable questions about migration around the globe. Other featured artists at the event include Raul Gonzalez, Sara Barcus, Jeremiah Teutsch, Nancy Wood, and the Artpace Teen Council, whose program benefits from the funds raised by Chalk It Up.
The greatest indicator of Artpace Chalk It Up’s growth over the last 15 years is the sheer volume of interest from the community. From the tens of thousands who attend the event to sponsors like Argo Group, Valero, the 80/20 Foundation, H-E-B, Via, Spurs Sports and Entertainment, and Centro San Antonio whose participation make it possible, Chalk It Up has become a hallmark of fall in San Antonio.
Join in with your community to color the streets of downtown San Antonio along Main Avenue and Houston Street on Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.