Amidst one of Fort Wayne's driest summers, a group of local artists has a peculiar request.
“We're hoping it doesn't rain,” said Steve Sprunger of Fort Wayne.
For the past six years, Sprunger has participated in the annual Chalk Walk, which will be held Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival.
Each year local artists and crafty citizens flex their creative muscles making chalk masterpieces on 4-foot-by-4-foot or 8-foot-by-8 foot squares of Main Street in front of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in downtown Fort Wayne. Registration begins Friday night for artists, and the Chalk Walk is open to the public Saturday and Sunday as artists work.
Three or four weeks prior to the Chalk Walk, Sprunger teaches classes at the art museum for beginning and advanced Chalk Walk participants.
His son Nick Sprunger, 17, a budding artist at Snider High School, began participating in the Chalk Walk eight years ago, which sparked Steve's interest in the event.
Each year, father and son work 18-20 hours side-by-side, creating separate 8-foot-by-8-foot drawings.
Steve says one of the biggest challenges is developing a design on paper and transferring it to cement, which may have cracks and manholes to work around.
“It's difficult to go from a 9-inch-by-12-inch piece of paper to 8-feet-by-8 feet of cement,” Steve said.
Chalk Walk participants' fee includes a new set of chalk pastels each year. But besides chalk, they can only use diluted tempera paint as a base color for their work, according to the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.
Artists can draw anything they want, but to be considered in the competition, they must draw something from one of the award categories. This year, the categories include:
•Iconic Fort Wayne: People, Places, and Things that Define the City
•Realism in America: Famous Artwork in the Realistic Style
•Trompe l'oeil: Fool the Eye with your hyper-real creation
•The Art of Gaming: Characters, Themes, and Storylines from Video Games
•Legendary Hoosiers: Indiana's Most Infamous Residents, Past and Present
In Chalk Walk 2010, Steve Sprunger won first place in the Trompe l'oeil (Fool the Eye) category for his 3-D image of a koi pond that looked like it was in the middle of the pavement.
In 2009, he won the American Art Initiative for a Chalk Walk piece called “Baseball in Fort Wayne” that combined the logos of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, Wizards, Kekiongas, Daisies and Wildcat Youth Leagues.
But to Steve, Chalk Walk is about drawing what he loves — a passion he instills in his son Nick, who chose to submit his Chalk Walk piece in one of the award categories for the first time last year.
“I try to encourage (Nick) to draw from his heart and put what he feels passionate about in his artwork,” Steve said.
Nick is a sketch artist who plans to pursue art in college. Steve gives him the same advice he gives his classes.
“No matter what you're working on, make sure it's something you really want to draw because that's something you'll put your best effort into,” Steve said.
Outside of the Chalk Walk, Steve dabbles in sketching, painting and calligraphy. He says the best thing about the Chalk Walk is the camaraderie among artists, who share tips and tools, and the visits from passersby.
Chalk Walk is based on the Italian tradition of street painting that began in the 16th century, according to the art museum. Each year, about 22,000 Fort Wayne viewers flock to see the colorful art works.
“It’s kind of like you’re in a fish bowl,” said Jennifer Neher of Fort Wayne, who has participated in Chalk Walk since 2007. Neher doesn’t do much artwork outside of Chalk Walk, but she considers herself crafty.
In previous years, she has drawn characters and people, such as Marilyn Monroe and Wonder Woman.
She has narrowed her plans for this year’s design down to three ideas: a zoo animal, one of her favorite structures or replicating a Picasso painting.
“It’s a nice way to spend a day in the sun and be creative,” Neher said.