By Platteville Arts Trails History
Celebrated Richland Center art teachers Jamie and Craig Rogers are among the headlining professional artists at “Chalk & Cheese,” a one-day outdoor art, food and music festival in Platteville on June 22. At this inaugural chalk-art event the day after the Summer Solstice, pros like the Rogers will join artists of all ages and abilities to create colorful artwork using Platteville’s City Park sidewalks as a canvas. Hundreds of excited Driftless residents will gather to watch as artists bring their creations to life, noshing on Wisconsin cheeses and beer, selecting their favorite work of art, and hanging out into the evening for prizes, live music and fantastic food trucks.
“We got a call asking if we were interested in helping to start this festival, and of course YES!,” said Craig. “It is very rare that we have a festival that is this close to our house. Usually we have to travel two or three hours at least to get to Eau Claire, Wausau or Green Bay or another of the larger cities, or we have to fly to Arizona or New York. Platteville is going to be like chalking in our backyard. It will be fun!
We can relax and not have to speed everywhere to get to a spot and have enough time to do what we need to do before the event is done. It will be more relaxed, and we won’t have to chop up our drawing into pieces to make sure it fits into our carry on or be careful on picking colors to ship. We can pack up the entire van and drive it there. Platteville is a great town and the people are great and the campus there is awesome.”
Anyone who loves to draw is invited to register as an artist — and artists under 12 can create in the Kid’s Area, no registration required. The price of registration is $20 for adults, $10 for youth 12-17 and for nonprofit organizations, and free for children under 12. City Park is located one block off Main Street in downtown Platteville. Each artist will be assigned a square of sidewalk and provided with a box of soft pastels, a cushioned kneeler pad and a bag full of goodies to make the day fun. Participating artists will work on the eight sidewalks that crisscross the park and radiate from a central ring where the professionals will show off their work. The nominal fee helps cover costs.
Chalk art has become a family hobby for Jamie and Craig, and they travel all over Wisconsin and the United States to participate in chalk art festivals. Their work has an intense 3-D quality, and can be both fantastic and profoundly realistic. “The art that we make normally is an interaction between people and nature,” said Craig. “We are all about nature and we love people. Sometimes we put our kids in there or a composite of several people we like or an animal with a land form, landscape or architecture. We also try to put in music or musical instruments. We also try to make it whimsical – not a heavy statement, but full of play and fun.”
Working under the name Rogers Creations, Jamie and Craig, who both work in the Richland School District, decided some seven years ago that chalk art would be a tradition their family would be involved in for years to come. The couple, who met in high school, works side by side. She enjoys a lot of color — the pretty stuff that people love to see — and he focuses on linework, details and textures. “Together we complete each other. We share that a lot. People are like, ‘You are working with your wife right now? Yes, I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else,’” Craig said.
The Platteville Arts Trails & History (PATH) project created Chalk & Cheese as a way to incorporate more arts and culture into community life, bringing local and exotic talent together. The festival celebrates the completion of a Platteville Creative Community Plan that was 15 months in the making, and serves as a kickoff for implementing the plan. The PATH community arts and culture planning project received grant funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program. Its goal is to bring the community together to identify Platteville’s unique place-based assets and to help create strategies that use arts and culture to promote a more diverse, vibrant and sustainable economy that benefits the entire community.
PATH has been led by The Mining & Rollo Jamison Museums (City of Platteville), Arts Wisconsin and a number of community partners with representatives from Platteville Common Council, Platteville Community Arboretum, Platteville Main Street Program, Platteville Public Library, Platteville Regional Chamber, Platteville School District, Rountree Gallery, Southwest Health, as well as several UW-Platteville faculty members and interested residents. Chalk & Cheese is also funded in part by generous support from the Grant County Tourism Grant Program and local sponsors.
Part of what makes chalk art different from other kinds of art forms is that creative spaces are located outdoors, where visitors can happen upon these masterpieces as the art as it unfolds — plus the art is ephemeral. Some people think chalk artists are crazy for spending a dozen or more hours on a chalk drawing that will wash away in rain drops and smudge when passers-by walk over it, but impermanence is part of the experience. “We are really into ephemeral art,” Craig said. “Before chalk drawing, we were into hiking. We would search around for rocks and sticks and arrange them with leaves in places like crooks in trees to create compositions similar to Andrew Goldsworthy’s. People would just happen upon it and get excited about art. Then we stumbled onto chalk in a festival at Wausau. Chalk wipes clean like it was never there.”
Chalk artists will check in at 8 a.m. June 22 and create until 3 p.m., when participants and spectators will have the opportunity to vote on their favorites. People’s Choice Awards will be announced at 5:30 p.m. and prizes will be awarded for professionals, adults and kids. To accompany the experience of art taking shape, regional cheese producers and a whole slew of local food trucks will set up near the art spaces to offer the flavors of our region. Music will be provided as well, extending the worldwide Make Music Summer Solstice music celebration that happens June 21 into the weekend. The musical guest will be the Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, a Soldiers Grove duo consisting of Nikki Grossman on guitar, fiddle and vocals; and Joe Hart on guitar, mandolin and vocals.
To learn more about participating in Chalk & Cheese, visit www.mining.jamison.museum. For more on PATH and to read the Platteville Creative Community Plan, visit www.platteville.org/path, follow PATH on Facebook, or call (608) 348-3301.