Riverworks hosts this year’s ChalkFest

Riverworks hosts ChalkFest, an event where artists are able to express themselves from a unique medium. Their complex pieces along with the eerie atmosphere of Silo City fit perfectly with their fall and Halloween theme.

The beginning stages of Tess Santillo’s Madame Leota drawing show the substantial skill needed to produce these pieces of artwork.

A fall themed event located inside Silo City

Upon entering a ChalkFest one may expect to be wowed by creations on the classic chalk canvas — blacktop. Curiously, most of the blacktop at Riverworks this past weekend was covered in hopskotch outlines, rainbows and stick figures drawn by children. The majority of the chalk art was located inside Silo City, the canvases elevated from gritty blacktop to the smooth concrete walls of the abandoned grain elevators which ignited Buffalo’s rise to prominence many moons ago.

The looming towers of the grain elevators and the rustic feel of the abandoned silos complemented this year’s fall and Halloween theme perfectly, and the artists did not disappoint with their creations. Walking through the silos, one couldn’t help but stare at the hyper-realistic and often creepy pieces lining the walls. The artists themselves, identifiable by their chalk-stained pants, shirts, fingers and faces, ranged from young children doodling candy corn to professionals illustrating complex and beautiful pieces. Some had printed photos taped next to their spaces for reference while others drew from the tiny screens of their phones, or from memory. 

Most artists drew characters pulled from pop culture to fit the theme. Notable mentions include the alien from “ET” with a glowing lamp on the tip of his finger, David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King seated on his throne, the clown from “It” perched on a shelf that seemed to protrude from the silo walls, and an ensemble of characters from “Courage the Cowardly Dog” chasing the title character. Artists have from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday to finish their pieces. On Sunday evening, judges hand out a variety of awards, including the standard first, second and third place awards, a people’s choice award, and two awards for the teen and 12 and under age groups, all of which you can view on the ChalkFest Buffalo Facebook page. 

Tess Santillo, a Daemen student studying animation, was located in the Silos and drew two pieces this year. A charcoalist by trade, she found ChalkFest on Instagram last year and decided to give the new medium a shot. “I said, ‘Hey, why not?’ Who cares if I’m really bad? It’ll be worth it,” she said. Last year she drew a scene from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”  This year, she drew the clown from “It” hiding under the floor and Madame Leota from “The Haunted Mansion,” citing Disney as an inspiration and a dream job. 

Since moving from the 500 Block of the Main Street Association to the Riverworks site in 2018, ChalkFest has expanded to encompass many different attractions. The massive indoor spaces of Riverworks hosted local vendors, selling anything from boutique dog collars to crystals to jewelry of all kinds, and an art show and exhibit area for fine artists, new this year. Also inside was a children’s area, with face painting, bounce houses and play spaces. In the restaurant and microbrewery “The Ward” the Bills game was projected onto a massive screen and all throughout the bar, a decision which seemed to cause many apparel-adorning football fans to check out the chalk art. Outside the adventurous type had access to the rock climbing walls and the zipline, which ran from one end of Riverworks into the menacing jaws of a painted shark. 

ChalkFest will continue at RiverWorks next year. Interested chalk artists and festival-goers should check out the website for more details at chalkfestbuffalo.com. 

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