Marilyn Monroe stands 15 feet tall on the pavement, her hair, skin and overflowing skirt a ghostly white, making her bright red lips pop with vibrant color.
The mural – a tribute to Milton H. Greene’s iconic 1954 photograph of Monroe in an ill-fitting ballerina costume – is the first of more than 50 chalk drawings that will cover the sidewalks of Hyde Park Village during the Chalk Walk art festival.
The free, three-day art show officially opens at 5 p.m. today, when visitors can take a stroll through the streets to see artists working on their murals, hear live music by local indie band 10th Concession, or enjoy the offerings from several gourmet food trucks. There also will be a gallery selling artwork by the participating artists.
Dee Sabean kneeled on the pavement Thursday, her hands completely covered in dark grey chalk dust as she filled in a spot near Monroe’s neckline. The St. Petersburg artist is completing the mural as part of her requirements for earning a “master chalker” designation from the Florida Chalk Art Association. She expects the Monroe piece will take a total of 20 hours.
“Street art definitely reaches people who don’t necessarily go to art galleries,” she said. “That’s my goal. I like the general public to appreciate what I appreciate. If I can put a beautiful picture down on the sidewalk and that gets other people to see its beauty, that’s what I’m after.”
Though there are certain dangers to working at shoe level.
“The ones who really get it are the children, because it’s so big and they’re so little. I’ve had children get so excited over a picture that they just run right onto it … people’s feet, that’s always one of the hazards, but it goes with the territory.”
Jennifer Douglas, executive director of Tampa Bay Business for Culture and the Arts, said she’s seen the festival’s popularity explode over its four previous years. This year she said she expects close to 7,500 people to attend.
“It’s fun, it’s free and it’s accessible to people regardless of their age or experience with art,” she said. “The way these artists create 3-D renderings on concrete is impressive to anyone.”
Other bands performing at the festival include Ms. Lisa’s Dance (11 a.m. Saturday), Ted Wray (4 p.m. Sunday) and the Grey Beard Band (11 a.m. Sunday).
Artist awards, including $3,000 in prizes, will be presented at 2 p.m. Sunday.