Chalk the Block returns to downtown El Paso

Fernanda Leon, Staff Reporter

The highly-anticipated and celebrated annual festival that decorates the downtown area with vibrant colors and artistic depictions will return this week.

Chalk the Block, which helps promote the importance of art in El Paso, will take place from Oct. 9 through Oct.11 in the Downtown Arts District. The event will be full of interactive ways to allow the community to experience art in a fun and engaging manner.

In 2008, Chalk the Block started off as a small sidewalk chalk art competition that featured 12 artists. Due to its popularity, organizers saw the need for more space and to make the event bigger.

“It is going on its eighth year in 2015 and is now host to more than 30,000 people throughout three days and is the largest interactive public arts festival in the region,” said Christopher Espinoza, production and marketing coordinator for El Paso’s Museums and Cultural Affairs Department. “The event is host to local, regional, national and international-featured art installations.”

Chalk the Block also features a sidewalk chalk-art competition, pop-up murals, live music performances, museum access, kids zone, giveaways, food vendors and art vendors.

One aspect that highlights the growth of the festival is the participation of some UTEP’s graphic design students as art vendors.

“This year, 15 students and I will be selling posters we designed at a vendor’s booth for the duration of the weekend,” said Anne Giangiulio, associate graphic design professor at UTEP.

Giangiulio said her graphic design students created a “Chalk the Block” poster as an assignment that, once done, was later evaluated by her and the rest of the graphic de-sign professors in order to select students to participate in the event.

“We all (the professors) had different favorites,” Giangiulio said. “The students did a great job coming up with such varied designs for the same assignment.”

The selected posters are screen printed by Proper Printshop. Giangiulio said the shop has been working with the project since 2012.

“Each poster is a limited edition, only 20 were printed of each design, so besides the fact they are beautiful, that makes them extra special,” Giangiulio said.

From cowboys and astronauts, to crocodiles and chickens, each poster the students made is entirely different and original.

“The night before class, I had my sketch book opened, when I saw a picture of a rooster on Facebook. Instantly I thought of a chicken and an egg cracking with lots of colors coming out of the egg,” said Karla Maciel, junior art major. “Since the poster only had to include three colors, I had to change the idea of colors coming out and replace it with the name of the event instead.”

Jorge Baca, senior media advertising major, and Maciel are two of the 15 UTEP students who had their posters selected for “Chalk the Block.”

“I was inspired by the western history of El Paso to create a piece that I call ‘Ready to Draw,’ which portrays a cowboy’s duel of chalk,” Baca said.

Both Baca and Maciel said the importance of these kind of events in the community is allowing members of the community to express themselves and to experience the rich-ness of the culture on the border.

“I think El Paso needs more events like ‘Chalk the Block’ to let local artists express themselves and give them the opportunity to share their work with the public,” Maciel said.

Through the years, “Chalk the Block” has proved to be an event full of fun and surprises that go hand-in-hand with art. The event not only lets people to see the art, but also to experience it through different interactive pieces.

For more information about “Chalk the Block,” visit www.chalktheblock.com or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/chalktheblockelpaso

Fernanda Leon may be reached at [email protected]