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GREAT ESCAPE: Luna Park Chalk Art Festival

Amazing art created on sidewalks highlights this San Jose fundraiser.

Do works of art have to be placed in museums? Not at all, according to the organizers of the Luna Park Chalk Art Festival in San Jose, set for this Saturday. Here, art is created on a very ordinary canvas — the sidewalks running through Backesto Park — turning pathways into bright, beautiful, and sometimes thought-provoking images.

The festival allows anyone and everyone to see the chalk drawings, and participate if they like. Attendees can also watch professional artists as they make their mind-blowing, often perspective-bending creations, in addition to enjoying live entertainment and food by local restaurateurs.

What to do here: The Chalk Art Festival “started really small, and then exploded,” said Katrina Loera, an art educator who is co-chairing this year’s event. Process from the festival will go to a worthy cause — art programs at local schools, which have been severely impacted by state budget cuts. At least 10 schools are also creating their own art projects at the festival, and about 100 artists in all are expected to get down and get chalky.

Some participants, like well-known street painters Cheryl and Wayne Renshaw, will start working on their complicated creations prior to the event. (To see some of their incredible, you-won’t-believe-your-eyes sidewalk art, have a look at what they did at the first Luna Park Chalk Art Festival. The Renshaws have been part of other popular events like the Santa Barbara I Madonnari Festival and the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts.) Other featured artists include Julio Jimenez, Lacy Bryant, Paul J. Gonzalez, and Loera herself.

Live entertainment will be provided by accordion player Mike Zampiceni, musicians Cuarto con Tres, and the Aztec dance troupe Movimiento Cosmico. Food and beverages will be sold by local merchants and San Jose catering trucks.

And even more to like: You can get into the act if you want — there’s plenty of chalk and sidewalk space available. Pay $10 the day of the event and you will receive a box of chalk and an assigned space to create your masterpiece. Be sure to wear comfy clothes and sunscreen, and a knee cushion is also a good idea.

About the Luna Park Chalk Art Festival: The festival was started by San Jose’s Luna Park Business Association four years ago as a way to bring people out to the area around North 13th Street and Oakland Road, and to encourage positive community activities in the area. The historic Luna Park area is named for an amusement park that existed there from the early 1900s to the 1920s.

A large Sicilian immigrant population dominated the neighborhood during the 20th century, but now an ethnically diverse population is the driving force of the business district, which features restaurants, bakeries and markets representing American, Vietnamese, Italian and Mexican cuisines.

Several historic buildings are located along 13th Street, flanked by Victorian and Craftsman-style homes in the nearby Northside neighborhood. The business district is bounded by Jackson and Hedding streets, and serves as a main thoroughfare between Highway 101 and downtown San Jose.

Directions and phone: Take Highway 101 to the Oakland Road exit; turn right on Oakland Road and a slight left on North 13th Street. Backesto Park is at North 13th and Jackson streets. The festival is Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Cost is $10 for those who want to participate, and admission is free for spectators. Information: www.lunaparkbusiness.com or Stephen Gordy, (408) 205-4287.

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