Sunshine Chalk Art Festival returns to the streets of Medicine Hat

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MEDICINE HAT - Kneeling over my grey square on the sideway – I drew … a blank. The fresh box of chalk beside my knee was screaming out ideas but I was afraid to start. What if I can’t draw? What if it looks dumb? What if it rains?... No wait, please rain! Share this page on Twitter.

Ian Morris of Victoria was so impressed by the community spirit last year that he enthusiastically took on the role as Chalk Art Ambassador this year. 
Photos by Joanne Elves

I already have performance anxiety and the Medicine Hat Sunshine Chalk Art Festival is still weeks away.

The annual Sunshine Chalk Art Festival, hosted by the Medicine Hat City Centre Development Agency, happens Aug. 11 to 13, and if it’s anything like last year, the downtown streets will be awash with colours.

This year traffic is being blocked on both the 400 and 500 blocks of 2nd and 3rd Streets to accommodate all the artists. Want to learn more about downtown Medicine Hat? Learn more from Tourism Medicine Hat's official website.

“Last year we had a wonderful turnout of both professional and amateur artists,” says volunteer chairman Jessica Boyd. “We saw so many stories told through chalk. Who knew Medicine Hat was so artistic?”

Was the sidewalk cracked to begin with or is this artist messing with us?

These are not your regular sidewalk chalk drawings. At least 18 professional local artists and tattoo artists have signed on to create stunning portraits, murals and 3-D features.

Four professional chalk artists from across North America enjoyed the event last year and have it in their calendar to return this summer. Two are from Washington, another from Florida and Ian Morris of Victoria who will proudly wear the badge of Festival Ambassador.

“Ian was so fun to work with last year and we are excited to see him return as the Festival Ambassador. He will share his knowledge and techniques of working with chalk with everyone interested in drawing and maybe inspire us all,” says Boyd.

Along with Morris, there will be 14-year-old Mackenzie Duchsherer, the Child Ambassador. Last year her grandfather saw the artwork and returned with her. She spent the rest of the weekend learning from the pros. She will be helping out in the Kids' Zone.

Mingle with and learn from chalk art pros

Friday morning the Monarch Theatre is playing the movie Gesso about the art of street painting. It will be at 10 a.m. and free of charge. Friday night, volunteers will prep the sidewalk with a thick grey tempura paint to create a smooth canvas for the artists. 

Medicine Hat is full of art's and culture. Check out this story about the Medalta Pottery Museum.

Saturday is the big day for the artists. While most of us average folks will take a square slightly larger than a school desk, the pros will craft images on nine-square feet or more of sidewalk. Last year, flowers bloomed, elephants walked, rivers flowed, suns shone and masterpieces were made.

“If an artist was taking longer than planned, other artists would come over and help fill in the gaps. And the pros were so enthusiastic – helping anyone who was struggling. Seeing that sense of community with all the artists was wonderful. There was so much laughter and collaborating between the pros and the amateurs,” says Bolt.

And for new artists like me, those pros are eager to inspire.

There will be room for everyone – until the free chalk runs out. But Boyd says that’s highly unlikely because they stocked up in anticipation of everyone coming downtown for the day.

Sunday is a day for the artists to sit back and along with the crowds, mingle and admire the work. Food trucks, buskers and entertainment will keep everyone entertained all weekend. The shops behind all the art will also be open for business offering Sunshine Chalk Art deals.

Grab a mug of freshly roasted java

While in the downtown area, why not do a bit of a “walk-about” and sample the coffee culture. Medicine Hat has become a bit of a hotbed of perfectly poured caffeine. I tried to get inspiration for my chalk art at Inspire Café. The bright café located in the historic Hargrave-Sissons Block not only sells fresh coffee and light meals, but also paintings, pottery and photography adorning the walls by local artists. Owner, Maureen Newton teaches art classes in the adjacent studio. (There’s help for me yet!)

Nothing says coffee break better than a fresh roasted cup of coffee. There are at least three boutique coffee shops within walking distance of the chalk art.

We followed the smell of roasting coffee to the Madhatter Coffee Roastery on 3rd Street and imbibed a cuppa joe from beans that were roasted only moments before. A bag of beans left with me to enjoy the rest of the week.

I know it’s not coffee, but I am now hooked on the Chai Tea Latte at The Station on 3rd Street. Co-owner Jake Knodel used to be a youth pastor but decided opening the shop in 2013 was a good career switch.

“I think I’ve retained all the good things that go along with being a pastor,” says Knodel. “I love the café culture. It brings people together – but it’s less structured and the coffee is great here. I guess I’m still helping people - one sip at a time.”

As I sipped the house-made chai latte, I prodded Kneel for list of ingredients and to my surprise he rattled off the entire list of 12 secret ingredients - cleverly neglecting the quantities of molasses, ginger, cardamom and um…. dang.

When I go back to finally put my chalk to the pavement for the Sunshine Chalk Art Festival I’ll be sure to stop in for a refill.

If You Go

  • For more information about downtown Medicine Hat and the Chalk Art Festival head to the official website. 
  • Get planning and head to Medicine Hat this summer; learn more here.
  • Read our Festival Overview and get inpired to join in the festivities and create your own sidewalk art. 
  • Ready to be wowed by incredible works of art on the pavement of Medicine Hat? Share this page with your art-loving friends.