DANSVILLE – Featured artists at the third annual Dansville Chalk Walk and Arts Festival July 19th, Rebecca and Derek Crocker both have day jobs. Rebecca, 33, is in sales and marketing at Hilltop Industries in Mt. Morris while Derek, 42, works at the Livingston County DMV in Geneseo. The couple's passion however, lies in the visual arts.
"We do this because we like it and because we have people constantly asking us to do stuff," said Rebecca in the couple's Mt. Morris studio.
Rebecca is primarily a commercial artist. She spends most of her time on the computer, creating logos, advertisements and the like. Derek meanwhile, is a fine artist, who generates his creations with brushes, pencils and paint.
"For me it's painting murals on their walls and stores and things like that," said Derek of the work he most commonly does.
Throughout the year, each tend stick to their areas of expertise and interest. Once summer rolls around however, they take to the street (or sidewalk), dazzling with their fleeting, chalk-based creations.
Derek got his first taste of chalk art when he participated in Perry’s Chalk Walk five years ago.
That first year, he said, was especially tough because his 25-square-foot piece was done on a street instead of a sidewalk.
“That first year we were in the road with a lot of big divots,” said Derek.
“That was just so hard on your fingers,” added Rebecca. “It really, physically hurt.”
Chalk artists typically use gloves and kneepads to spare their extremities the worst of the constant friction between skin and concrete. Since then, Perry has transitioned to using sidewalk surfaces, the same that Dansville will use in its own, upcoming Chalk Walk.
Festival coordinator Salome Farraro said she and her co-coordinator, Jill Kalmar, originally approached the Crockers to be last year’s featured artists, but they were unavailable.
“So we went back this year and asked them if they would and they said ‘yes’,” said Farraro.
Both Derek and Rebecca will undertake separate creations; Derek alone and Rebecca with a partner.
Though there is no concrete theme that they have to stick to, Rebecca is toying with the idea of paying homage to Dansville’s most visible landmark: The Castle on the Hill.
“I really want to do the Castle,” said Rebecca. “I think that would be fun.”
Derek meanwhile, is having a little more trouble finding inspiration.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Derek. “I don’t have a clue.”
Working with chalk is a little different than sketching with a pencil or painting with a brush.
“I use my fingers a lot to smooth and blend colors together,” said Derek. “A lot of people... mix water and chalk together and they almost paint with it. Then a lot of people will use hairspray on it to keep it in place, otherwise it can blow away and get dusty.”
But the most disastrous circumstance for any chalk artist has to be imminent precipitation.
“Yeah, if it rains, that’s a problem,” mused Rebecca.
“It’s a powder basically,” added Derek. “It doesn’t take a lot to wash it away.”
But the potentially fleeting nature of chalk designs can also be their most endearing characteristic, said Derek.
“Sometimes I think it does,” he answered, when asked if the fact that chalk art can be washed away so easily adds to its appeal. “If you want to come see it, it will only be there until it rains basically. It’s a cool, temporary type of art.”
Farraro said that there are currently seven downtown businesses that have signed up to host up to 25 artists in front of their stores.
“Right now we have less than that and I want more,” said Farraro.
Artists interested in signing up for July 19’s Chalk Walk can go to dansvillechamber.com to download an application. There are also printed applications available at Tony’s Pizzeria, Clockworks Wine and Liquor and RE/MAX, all of which are located on Dansville's Main St.
All artists who preregister will receive free pastels and charcoals. In the event of rain, preregistered artists work inside their host businesses and create artwork on large format paper.
The Dansville Chalk Walk and Arts Festival will take place July 19 from 10 a.m. To 5 p.m. Handmade items for show and sale will be featured on Ossian Street, sponsored by Dansville Mini Storage. Live music will run from 1 p.m. To 4 p.m. under a tent at the Old Madrid and a community fair featuring non-profits and vendors of non-handmade goods will be at GCC, sponsored by Dansville-Wayland PennySaver.
The Crockers will be work under the portico at the Dansville Public Library at 10 a.m., at which time they will give a brief presentation on the art form and their technique. Those who would like to join the fun without pre-registering should bring their own sidewalk chalks to GCC on Clara Barton Street from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.