by Emily Struhala
Although newer to the summer lineup of festivals and events in Pittsburgh, Chalk Fest is returning for its second year with an expanded format and a new location. Not only is the festival a fun and free way to spend Memorial Day weekend, but a portion of the proceeds from food and drink sales will benefit Riverlife, a nonprofit organization focused on maintaining and developing Pittsburgh riverfronts.
“We have a commitment to enhancing the vitality of Downtown,” says Matt Galluzzo, president and CEO of Riverlife.
Last year, Chalk Fest welcomed approximately 5,000 people and 19 artists. This year, 24 artists from around the world will come together to showcase their artwork on May 27 and 28 on the North Shore’s Isabella Street for the rebranded Pittsburgh Riverwalk & Chalk Fest.
“We want to do things that are not expected,” says Galluzzo.
Riverlife partnered with local artist Erik Greenawalt, aka The Chalking Dad, to bring the event to the North Shore. Previously held at South Side Riverfront Park, Chalk Fest’s new home is where Allegheny Landing and the Warhol Museum’s new Pop District meet.
Greenawalt, who is from North Huntington, became introduced to chalk drawing after his daughters asked him to create cartoon characters on their driveway. Now almost 20 years later, The Chalking Dad travels to festivals around the world including Australia, England and the U.S.
“It’s great to finally bring an event like this to Pittsburgh,” says Greenawalt, who will be collaborating with his daughter, Jaycie, to create a 3-D Franco Harris.
In that spirit, attendees are encouraged to express their creativity by colorizing mandalas created by Sandy Forseth. Most of the artists can be found on Instagram, Facebook or via their personal websites.
On Saturday, May 27, the artists will start to form their creations. Take a walk through Allegheny Landing or participate in OpenStreetsPGH on Sunday, May 28, to see all the chalk artwork come to life. Presented by BikePGH, OpenStreetsPGH allows anyone to walk, bike, skip, or even dance their way through the city streets free of cars.
“We want to shine a positive light on Downtown,” says Galluzzo.
Chalk Fest will also welcome more than a dozen food and drink vendors including Shorty’s Pins X Pints, Millie’s, PGH Crepes, a specialty CHALKtail bar, Mobile Chef, Hummus Pittsburgh, Mommlicious, BrisketBurgh, McFeely’s Artic Ice, Revival Chili, and 1:11 Juice Bar.
There will be live music on Saturday, face painting, glitter tattoo art and block party-style games.
Pittsburgh Riverwalk & Chalk Fest is a family-friendly event that is free and open to the public. Hours are 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. on May 27 and 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on May 28.
Emily Struhala is a Greensburg-based writer. She has contributed to Ocean City Magazine in New Jersey and the Latrobe Bulletin. When not writing, she enjoys exploring new events in the area and attending her local Zumba class.