Scottsdale's asphalt art draws curious onlookers - East Valley Tribune: News

Scottsdale's asphalt art draws curious onlookers

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Posted: Saturday, October 18, 2008 7:32 pm | Updated: 11:10 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

An old time European art tradition debuted in downtown Scottsdale this weekend. Early Saturday morning, around 100 local artists and art aficionados began creating soft pastel murals on the black asphalt parking lot facing Main Street Plaza.

SLIDESHOW: Via Colori street painting festival  

An old time European art tradition debuted in downtown Scottsdale this weekend. Early Saturday morning, around 100 local artists and art aficionados began creating soft pastel murals on the black asphalt parking lot facing Main Street Plaza.

SLIDESHOW: Via Colori street painting festival  

"I am just amazed," said the event's chairwoman Andrea Beaulieu, as she surveyed the brightly colored portraits and landscapes unfolding slowly before her eyes.

"It's a celebration of the act of creativity. You get to watch artists creating amazing frescos," said Beaulieu, of the centuries old tradition that took more than a year of planning to come to Scottsdale.

Street painting, according to the event organizers, dates back to 16th century Italy, where artists could be found painting replicas of religious icons on the ground with colored chalk. The art of street painting, said the organizers, made a resurgence about three decades ago in Italy and came to the U.S. in the form of street painting festivals in the late 1980s.

About 150 work spaces, which were paid for by event sponsors, were assigned to registered participants who were given soft pastels to create an asphalt masterpiece, said Beaulieu, of the event which continues today and is free to the public.

Beaulieu said proceeds from the event will benefit the Scottsdale Cultural Council; Arizonans for Children, a non-profit group for abused and abandoned children; and Devereaux Arizona, a Scottsdale center for children with behavioral difficulties.

Onlookers on Saturday had a rare opportunity to question the artists as they worked.

"I thought the children would enjoy this. It's neat the artists talk to you," said Marty Sekenski, 44, of Mesa, as he and his wife Bridget, 41, daughter Kara, 10, and sons Kyle, 14, and Kevin, 6, surrounded guest artist Melanie Stimmel's 12 by 12 foot square.

Stimmel, an internationally renowned street painter, based near Los Angeles, Calif., said people get excited to see art created on the street.

"People will ask how long it will take and what happens if it rains," said Stimmel, as she patiently rubbed multiple layers of soft pastel into the ground to create a replica of the artwork "Lita and the Swan." Stimmel said it usually takes at least two days to finish an art work. She said artists will cover their works with drop cloths if the weather takes a turn for the worst.

Artists new to street art say it is a lot harder than people may think.

"It takes four to five layers to get the color you want," said city of Scottsdale planner Jesus Murillo of Phoenix, as he patiently set out to create an ambitious 10-foot by 10-foot mural that included Pinnacle Peak, the Arizona flag and Saint Therese. Murillo said he chose those symbolic elements to pay homage to both Arizona and the 16th century street painters who painted religious icons.

"The worst part is the heat and the gravity," said artist Sergio Lepore, 45, of Mesa, describing the main challenges of the day as he squatted down on his knees to create a pastel replica of the Raphael work "The Madonna and Child with Infant Saint John," onto the ground.

What makes the event intriguing to onlookers, Stimmel said, is the fact that the artworks will be washed away at the festival's close Sunday night.

"They'll watch and come back to see it finished, knowing it won't be there the next day," said Stimmel.

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