Viva Via Arte! Bigger festival returns to Marketplace

After a modified event last year, Via Arte returns to The Marketplace this weekend with more artists — of all ages — to honor the tradition of Italian street painting.

Art lovers will be happy to know there’s more in store for this year’s gathering that runs Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s much more similar to what people know Via Arte to be,” curator Rachel McCullah Wainwright said of this year’s festival.

“We still haven’t returned to full capacity as far as artists go, but we’re welcoming back Bambino squares and high school students.”

Via Bambino is an area where children (and adults) can create their own work on a 2-by-2-foot square. Cost is $20 and includes a box of chalk. 

This year, 12 high schools will be participating, each working on a 7-by-7-foot square, with up to six students working at a time, rotating to accommodate their group.

Additionally, about 75 professional artists will also be taking part, working on 4-by-6-foot, 7-by-7-foot or 8-by-12-foot squares.

This year’s featured artist is Kevin Hardin, who has participated since the festival began.

“He and I talked about doing something in 2020,” Wainwright said. “Then obviously we weren’t able to have a featured artist last year. We’re excited to be able to highlight Kevin as a local chalk artist.”

Hardin will be doing a rendition of van Gogh’s “Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin.”

“With Kevin, he has done quite a few renditions of van Gogh’s work. He has an impressionistic style to convey the brush stroke. … It’s something that he has become known for.”

The festival brings together artists from here and around the state, including longtime participants such as Hardin as well as newcomers like Wendy Johnson for whom this will be her first year creating rather than watching.

“This is my first time and I’m very excited about it!” she wrote in an email.

Johnson, who hosts mobile paint and craft parties through her business Art with Heart, has dabbled with chalk thanks to Creative Crossing for which she worked on one for Pride last year and another on mental health awareness. 

For her square, Johnson will be doing a chalk version of her painting of a Joshua tree, which she saw many times during monthly camping trips to Red Rock Canyon with her parents and siblings.

(The original work is on display currently at Bird Dog Arts at the Outlets at Tejon.)

“When I think about those trips, I reminisce about the Joshua trees we’d run around and the beautiful pink sunsets. They are such a beautiful plant and I’ve been painting them for years because I am so drawn to them.”

Johnson is excited to participate in the event that she said is a great way to show off the talent in the community.

“I love seeing how artists bring their own styles to classic paintings as well as seeing artists like myself draw their own original pieces that I may not have seen before.”

Another artist recreating her original work is Deidre Hathor, who will recreate a colorful abstract piece of Marilyn Monroe that she designed with fellow artist and boyfriend Brandon Thompson.

“We call it street art, but it’s a mural,” she said of her piece.

Working with her assistant, Heather Laganelli, owner of Locale Farm to Table, Hathor knows the goal will be to get the hue right.

“We all get the same chalk, the same kit of 64 colors. My color for Marilyn Monroe is orange, so I have to get lots of orange. Because the water that I mix with my chalk, it looks like it’s painted on the ground, looks different than others.”

Hathor took part in last year’s event and is excited about this year when she will again work alongside Thompson and engage with students from their Artists Seeking Knowledge class.

And she really wants the colors on her piece to pop to draw the attention of children passing by.

“There’s so much color on the ground, it’s like color therapy. … You’re outside connecting to art all around, this is a great place to bring a child. This is something they should experience. I think everybody should experience this, even the ‘big kids’ inside themselves.

“Art is therapy. It’s just exciting.”

Wainwright is also excited and said she is looking forward to seeing the creativity this weekend at the event that she said is only possible through the generous support of the community — sponsors, attendees and artists.

“It’s an honor to be able to host this event. We give thanks to the community and local artists as well. We rely on them to be the creators. They devote countless hours during Via Arte and they do it as volunteers.”

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter: @realstefanidias.

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Viva Via Arte! Bigger festival returns to Marketplace

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