Victoria chalk art festival idea pitched

From pumpkins to buskers to chalk creations, Vickers pursues vision for a vibrant city core

The man who brought the pumpkin festival and street performers’ festival to Victoria has set his sights on yet another new festival idea.

John Vickers is well on his way to launching the Victoria International Chalk Festival.

The idea took shape when he travelled to Sarasota in December to learn about that city’s festival. Founded by Denise Kowal, the event attracted 250,000 people.

“I met the organizer of that festival,” said Vickers. “She has signed on as our new volunteer artistic director.”

Victoria’s version has many elements planned. First, a chalk artist will create 37-square-metre 3D drawing at Centre Court in the Bay Centre. Second, a designated kids area will let budding artists express themselves in chalk.

Thirdly, Vickers is seeking approval to close Government Street for the two-day festival, Sept. 15 and 16 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. between Fort and Yates street. The pavement, if not deemed too bumpy, will be transformed into a canvass for 15 international artists and 30 local artists.

The Downtown Victoria Business Association has expressed preliminary support for the concept.

“While it is always a balancing act to create appropriate venues without compromising the ability of our individual businesses to remain open and even do better than they usually do as a result of your efforts, you have demonstrated a great flare for achieving this in the past.” wrote general manager Ken Kelly.

The association’s events committee will review his application for assistance.

Vickers still faces one major stumbling block. Last week, he discovered a city bylaw forbidding anyone, except licensed buskers, from drawing on public sidewalks.

“There seemed to be general unanimity (on city council) on the idea that it was a cool project and that we thought it would add lovely flavour to a variety of city events happening for the 150 anniversary,” said Coun. Marianne Alto.

Next, Vickers was instructed to make an application for a special event which would some kind of an exemption from the general prohibition against chalk drawing.

Anniversary arts grants pending

Vickers hopes to tie his new chalk festival into the city’s 150 anniversary by directing artists to recreate images of Government Street over the decades.

His is among 68 applications received by the city to secure an arts grant for the anniversary. The Greater Victoria Spirit Committee was due to announce grant recipients Jan. 30. The process, however, has been postponed. On Wednesday, the spirit committee was expected to ratify a short list of applicants, said Alice Bacon, anniversary co-ordinator.

The arts and culture grants available range from $1,000 to $20,000.