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The City Journals

Elk Ridge Middle School students learn craft of chalk art

Oct 28, 2016 12:35PM ● By Julie Slama

Eighth-graders Isabelle Ashton and Alyssa Anders put the finishing touches on “Africa Focus,” their entry in the school’s chalk art festival. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

South Jordan, Utah - Elk Ridge eighth-grader Emma Myers knew how to create a piece of work out of chalk. She and her sister won the school’s chalk art contest during last year’s “The Future” theme.

While the festival has taken a non-competitive turn, Emma still participated, teaming up with eighth-grader Whitney Schmidt in this fall’s theme, “Africa.”

“We looked for several ideas and then decided we wanted to create an African family and combined several ideas into our own,” Emma said.

Whitney learned that “chalk takes work, getting the right colors, blending. It’s really fun, and I never thought it was something I could do,” she said.

Elk Ridge Middle School art teacher Mollie Gonzales said the chalk art festival has been a long-standing school tradition that is held both in the fall and spring.

“The Chalk Art Festival is an event that anyone in the school can apply to,” she said. “There are many applications and they go through selection process. Twelve teams of two are picked to join in the festival.”

While about 50 percent of the students are art students, the judges are unaware of the names of those applying. They are judged on their application, which includes a picture of their proposed design.

Gonzales said she provides chalk and pastels to each team and teaches them how to make grid lines for their artwork, how to blend or brighten their colors and how to make sure they cite their sources. Each entry also has a title.

“Art isn’t just drawing or painting; there are many different mediums to explore,” she said. “This is a different medium from what we generally use in the classroom. They get a chance to work together and learn new skills. There is a teacher’s choice prize at the end, but the main prize is to enjoy the outdoors, art, friends and beautifying the school with the students’ talent.” 

After the students finished their work on Oct. 7, other classmates toured the sidewalk full of entries.

“The kids love it, and the entire school comes out at the end of the day to see what we came up with,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales picked the theme, “Africa,” partially because of the school’s upcoming musical, “The Lion King,” which will run Feb. 1-4, but also because “it’s an all-encompassing theme that allows them creativity.”

Ninth-graders Hannah Stetler and Darcie Bean said it was their first time participating in the chalk art festival.

“We found a photo we liked but made it our own by changing the colors to be cool colors in the sunset and wanting a baby elephant in it,” Darcie said about their entry, “Parade of the Elephants.”

Teammate Hannah said that it has been a great experience.

“We learned that blending chalk is harder than we thought, but it’s been a cool chance to learn as well as get to know others better as we’re outside, working next to others,” she said.

In another entry, eighth-grader Isabelle Ashton said she liked the elephants in a photo she and her teammate Alyssa Anderson Googled, but they added colors and changed it to make it work better with chalk.

“We exaggerated the colors we saw,” Alyssa said. “We changed positions so it was easier to see what was drawn. We made it our own.” 

Although their experience was limited to chalk in their driveways, they were able to be creative and liked their outcome.

“I like hanging out all day doing art,” Isabelle said. “It takes patience, but it’s fun.” 

Alyssa added that she has learned to appreciate it more.

“I like that it’s not a competition, but it’s more of doing it for the enjoyment, and it gives others a chance to enjoy it as well,” she said.