Despite getting caught in a traffic jam at the North Grand Island Bridge and starting later than their counterparts, Grand Island High School students won two top awards at the Chalk Walk competition during last Saturday's Lewiston Art Festival.
The GIHS trio of Lovepreet Kaur, Lex Hy and Kelsey Mahoney won both the first-place blue ribbon from judges and the Peoples' Choice award from spectators. It was the second year in a row that the GIHS representatives won the Peoples' Choice award.
The New York State Thruway Authority's North Grand Island Bridge construction project forced closure of all lanes on the southbound North Grand Island Bridge Saturday morning. Traffic was reduced to two-way traffic on the northbound North Grand Island Bridge the day of the event, with one travel lane open for northbound motorists and one travel lane open for southbound motorists until 10:15 a.m. That caused a long delay and put many the Islanders off schedule for the Art Festival. The Chalk Walk, in which three-student teams from area high schools draw murals on the asphalt of Center Street, started at noon.
"We were there for, like, 40 minutes stuck on the Island because there was a lot of traffic on the bridge," Kaur said.
"I got here 10 minutes late because of it," Hy added.
Students were to report to the intersection in front of KeyBank, sponsor of the Chalk Walk, by 11:15 a.m. The event started at noon.
"So we had to start 10 minutes late," Kaur said. The team members, especially its advisor Megan Gaiek, were a little out of sorts when they finally put chalk to asphalt.
"Yeah. It was like, 'Oh, man. Gotta get everything done.' My heart was beating," Hy said.
"The kids worked really hard. About halfway through I wasn't sure if they were going to finish," Gaiek said, laughing. Gaiek arrived about 45 minutes later than she normally would because of the traffic. "I got a little nervous but they focused, they put their energies into it, and they got it done."
"We definitely had to put every second of our time working," Hy said.
At the end, though, the team finished with time to spare and didn't cut any corners on the design they had practiced drawing.
"This is it to a T," Hy said of the finished mural.
This year's mural required a 9-foot diameter circle, a departure from the usual square at the Chalk Walk, to depict a coin. The GIHS students wrote in their artist statement explaining their interpretation of the theme that their artistic coin, drawn in relief to appear laying flat on Center Street, was inspired by art nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha. The mural featured a maiden representing beauty in creating art standing at the ready to create art with brushes and a palette in her hands. Art words flow in her cascading dress, and she is flanked by Niagara Falls and the Albright Knox Art Gallery.
The Chalk Walk competition offers spectators of the Art Festival an opportunity to interact with the student artists as they work, and the Islanders received positive feedback.
"What we heard was they were saying how it's detailed," Kaur said. Spectators were also heard praising the students' choice of motto on the coin: "Listen to Your Art."
Murals were judged on originality and creativity, visual impact and artistic interpretation of the theme. Votes for the Peoples' Choice award were cast by "ballots" costing 25 cents each, with proceeds from the Peoples' Choice award used to fund next year's Chalk Walk.
Gaiek said Hy and Mahoney, taking part in their first Chalk Walk, were surprised that the winning coin they drew on the road provided them with some real coin in return. First, second and third place finishers received prize money from KeyBank's "Arts are Key" program.
"And all of sudden they looked at me and they're like, 'There's money?' Lovepreet knew, but the other two didn't," Gaiek said. "They were just doing it for the sheer pleasure of just competing."
The winners also received a pure silver coin from Vicki and John Fuerch of VicTree Coins & Collectibles, a business on Center Street a short walk from the competition.
Other than a little breeze that blew the chalk around, Gaiek called the conditions "perfect weather." It was much milder than the intense heat with which the students contended during more than half a dozen practice sessions in the GIHS back parking lot.
Lex Hy and Lovepreet Kaur are pictured with their trophies for winning first place and Peoples' Choice in the Chalk Walk competition at the Lewiston Art Festival. Not pictured is teammate Kelsey Mahoney. (Photo by Larry Austin)
A view from above
The annual Chalk Walk competition Saturday at the Lewiston Art Festival was a hub of activity. Patrons of the festival, held Aug. 8 and 9 on Center Street in the Village of Lewiston, had an opportunity to watch the Chalk Walk participants create murals from noon to 4 p.m. The mural by the students at Grand Island High School, center at bottom, won both the People's Choice award and the blue ribbon from a panel of judges. (Photo by K&D Action Photo and Aerial Imaging)