On the rooftop of Artpace Wednesday, students from the Henry Ford Academy Alameda School for Art and Design were making chalk drawings as a preview of what’s to come at the 13th annual Chalk It Up art festival on Saturday, Oct. 8.

The free event, which will take place on East Houston Street between North Presa and North Flores streets, will feature 55 student teams like Henry Ford’s participating in the family-friendly artistic celebration from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Artpace administrators, collaborators, and City officials were on hand at the Wednesday press conference to discuss the coming festival and stress the importance of making contemporary art available to young artists.

Chalk It Up Co-chair Anna Wulfe said the event makes art interactive and accessible for downtown San Antonio.

“We close down five blocks and let people explore their inner creative,” Wulfe said. “There will be live music, dancing, food, and overall street activity for the entire city of San Antonio.”

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) praised the yearly festival for bringing awareness to the need to provide San Antonio students with access to contemporary art.

“Houston Street, for an entire day, will be transformed into a canvas for vibrant works by some of our city’s most talented artists and cultural partners,” he said. “In addition, it gives pedestrian access to one of our most historic streets, allowing children of all ages to create works of art in our streets and sidewalks.”

The festival, Treviño added, is an opportunity for people all over San Antonio to come and appreciate the “dynamic development” taking place downtown.

Veronique Le Melle, Artpace executive director, expressed gratitude for what Chalk It Up has become since its inception 13 years ago.

“Chalk It Up has become a galvanizing community event for downtown San Antonio,” Le Melle said. “It is really the premier time that San Antonians can come out and (show) their personal artistic expression. And as a newcomer to this city, this is one of the most creative cities that I have lived in.”

Le Melle stressed the importance of working with student artists, pointing out that Artpace works with 14,000 students in San Antonio every year.

John Medina, Henry Ford Academy art department chair, said that he and his colleagues at the academy are dedicated to cultivating young artists’ creativity.

“We are strong believers that the arts are a very important part of a well rounded education, and that’s not something that’s commonplace anymore,” Medina said. “I believe we have some of the most talented students in the city of San Antonio, which says a lot because there are a lot of talented people here.”

One of the most important things that the Henry Ford Academy staff tries to teach their students, Medina added, is the importance of working in their community.

“At the same time, it’s important for our community to support our students, as well,” Medina said. “So when we do events like (Chalk It Up), it allows (students) to get exposure for their artwork and meet other people. Art isn’t about staying in your studio all day, it’s about getting out there and making a difference.”

After the press conference, Treviño elaborated on his support for increased access to contemporary art.

“It’s not just about expressing an idea, it’s being inclusive of many different parts of our community and it’s multi-generational,” he told the Rivard Report. “You have students, local artists, and the heart of our community in downtown embracing what art means and how it improves a community.”

Treviño added that access to the arts goes a long way toward improving overall quality of life.

“As I was just telling these kids, art is something that encompasses so many things,” he explained. “Whatever they pursue in their careers, they can relate it back to these experiences. Artists lead a conversation that is not with words, but it is as meaningful and inclusive.”

For more information on Chalk It Up, click here.

A student from the Henry Ford Academy creates a chalk drawing at Artpace. Photo by Scott Ball.
A student from the Henry Ford Academy creates a chalk drawing at Artpace. Photo by Scott Ball.

 Top image: Students from the Henry Ford Academy (Mia, 16, and Miranda, 16) create chalk art on the rooftop of Artpace before the announcement.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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James McCandless

Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.