Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

Grand Island High School's mural addressed the theme `Interconnectedness.`
Grand Island High School's mural addressed the theme "Interconnectedness."

Grand Island wins another Chalk Walk

Sat, Aug 19th 2017 07:00 am
By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Assistance from patrons of the arts helped Grand Island High School students win an unprecedented seventh first-place award in the last eight years at the 2017 Chalk Walk competition.
Even Mother Nature couldn't stop the team of Kelsey Mahoney, Julie Klein and Tess Lariviere from winning the event, held Saturday during the Lewiston Art Festival. Periods of rain hampered some of the 13 teams drawing 8-foot by 10-foot murals on the asphalt of Center Street in the Village of Lewiston. Teams of three artists addressed the contest theme of "Interconnectedness."
Mahoney and Klein, members of the Class of 2017, were repeat winners for their alma mater, while Lariviere, making her Chalk Walk debut, will enter her senior year in September.
Normally the Chalk Walk is completed from noon to 4 p.m., but periods of rain prompted Chalk Walk organizers to extend the time limit for a half hour. The rain subsided long enough for teams to complete their murals, but returned at 5 p.m. just as the awards were handed out.
The downpour didn't put a damper on the event for Megan Gaiek, the GIHS art teacher and advisor to the GIHS team. GIHS has won a ribbon of some color in almost every Chalk Walk the school has participated in during her 20-year tenure guiding the team.
"It made it fun. It brought it to a different level," Gaiek said of the rain.
Kelsey Mahoney's mother, Karen, was one of about a dozen people who held a tarpaulin over the GIHS team's mural during two rainy periods of the event.
Karen Mahoney, Megan Gaiek and her husband Andy Gaiek held the tarp during a light, brief drizzle, but had extra help later. "Then the second time the rain came down, we had the tarp on standby," Karen Mahoney said. "It was really neat because bystanders just jumped in, and we had about 11 to 15 people hold the tarp. Just strangers walking by wanting to help and protect their art so the girls could keep working uninterrupted."
While the mural was intact, the tarp crew was drenched.
"I felt like I contributed to their project," Karen Mahoney said. It was probably not the first time a parent has helped a child with an art project, though this assistance required an extensive shoulder and bicep workout.
GIHS also won the People's Choice award. While the blue ribbon is voted on by a panel of judges, People's Choice is voted on with monetary donations by patrons of the Lewiston Art Festival. Just as the announcement of the People's Choice award was made, at 5 p.m., the rain came down even harder, wiping away much of the murals.
"I think the rain made it fun, if it wasn't so destructive," Mahoney said.
 "I didn't care too much whether we won or lost, because we had fun drawing, but it's nice to win," said Lariviere.
"It feels really great. I'm really excited," Klein said of the victory. "It's really nice because last year we didn't get People's Choice award and I feel like People's Choice award is almost a little bit more important because it's like everybody that came really enjoyed our artwork, and that makes me really happy. And it just feels great because we had such a great team with all my friends."
"I feel bad for the other schools, though, where the rain may have gotten underneath their tarp," Gaiek said.
The other teams from West Seneca West, Niagara Falls High School, Lewiston-Porter and Williamsville South didn't have 15 people holding a tarp over their heads. How did GIHS manage the feat?
"I'm not really sure," Klein said. "I think we had a lot of parents and a lot of people from the school and a lot of people from Grand Island who just wanted to kind of help us make sure that it didn't get wet. But it was really nice of them all to do that so we could keep working."
The trio from GIHS worked uninterrupted, while teams from other schools covered their murals with plastic, waited, and hoped for the best. To the naked eye, GIHS's mural was the least damaged by moisture.
"We didn't get it wet at all, I don't think," Klein said. "It was fantastic. We were able to keep working. I feel bad for some of the other teams because either their tarp didn't work out as well or it got a little wet."
"I saw a lot of other groups do the tent kind of thing, but I think they were too high up, but the advantage of having the people hold it over us was that it was nice and low so the rain couldn't go in," Mahoney said.
Working under the tent-like tarp was not at all claustrophobic, either. Mahoney said, "It wasn't so bad for me. It was kind of cozy."
"It was like camping, but with chalk," Lariviere said.
Artists from other schools saw a silver lining in the rain clouds.
"Yeah, it's a little disappointing," said Natalia Suska of Niagara Falls High School as the rain came down, "but we're trying to use the water to our advantage now, because now (the chalk) can be the consistency of paint. And then we have paint brushes that we can use for it."
Suska and teammates Cally Dolan and Alex Dixon addressed the theme with a mural incorporating the Berlin Wall and President Harry Truman's U.S. airlift of 1948. The mural showed the interconnectedness of both West Berliners and East Berliners coming together and how the airlift "brought the world and democracy together," she said.
The rain "helped set some of the colors in, so it helped us a little bit," said Lewiston-Porter Chalk Walk artist Mari Salada. "We ended up covering it with plastic so it didn't wash everything away, but the little bit of it actually helped us,"
Salada said patrons of the festival told her the mural she and teammates Uma Samudrala and Christine Barr made was different than the rest. Salada described the mural message, saying: "You feel so far away from everything sometimes, and we really are right there with all the elements, the earth, even space. Even if you have a small perspective in life, you're still part of a way bigger picture."
"I'm really excited about the finished product. I think we worked really hard on it," Samudrala said.
Tess Lariviere, Julie Klein and Kelsey Mahoney draw a mural under a tarp held by art fans during a lengthy rain.

Hometown News

View All News