30th annual Lake Worth Street Painting Festival turns downtown into outdoor art gallery

LAKE WORTH BEACH — Throngs of people arrived in downtown Lake Worth Beach on Saturday morning for the city’s 30th annual Street Painting Festival. Within an hour, its blocked-off streets were clogged with artists sketching colorful, multi-dimensional works of art on the surfaces of Lake and Lucerne avenues.

An estimated 100,000 people were expected to attend the free two-day event, which began at 10 a.m. Saturday and runs through 7 p.m. Sunday. It features the work of more than 600 artists — most of whom were coated in chalk by noon. According to 18-year-old Crystal Robinson, that’s all part of the fun.

Artists and spectators crowd the street during the Lake Worth Beach Street Painting Festival on Saturday in downtown Lake Worth Beach. The festival continues through 7 p.m. Sunday.

“I live, eat and breathe art,” said Robinson, a senior at Somerset Academy in Pembroke Pines.

She and her classmates began sketching on three plots of pavement at 9 a.m. Saturday, some wearing knee pads to keep gravel from digging into their skin. Those who used their bare hands to smudge and smear the chalk were “pretty much sanded away” by the day’s end, Robinson said.

The group launched into belting renditions of songs from musicals like “Hamilton” and “Mamma Mia” while drawing Robinson’s art. One, the most visually complex piece, was inspired by Marvel’s “Into The SpiderVerse.”

Madi Van Rensburg's feet are covered in black chalk as she helps create a work of art during the Lake Worth Beach Street Painting Festival on Saturday in Lake Worth Beach.

Super heroes, rock stars and pop-culture icons made up many of the artworks that took shape throughout the afternoon. Other artists brought original pieces to life on the pavement, some drawing freehand while others looked often at small, printed versions of their art to help stay on track.

Employees at downtown businesses often stepped outside to look at the work, chatting with passersby about this year’s batch of talent. Others could hardly afford to, given the extra rush of patrons each year’s festival brings in. Some had signs taped to their patio chairs forbidding non-customers from sitting: “You don’t pay, you don’t play.”

While first-timers complained about the weekend heat, veteran chalkers and attendees gave thanks for the temperate afternoon. Last year’s festival was scorching, said Chris White, who’d had a bout of sun poisoning to prove it. And the year before, it rained.

Amanda Silvagnoli works on the eyes of her chalk painting during the Lake Worth Beach Street Painting Festival on Saturday.

White, an arts and graphic design teacher at South Tech Academy in Boynton Beach, deemed this year’s event a happy medium. A band of his students worked on a pop-art styled piece depicting actor Tom Hiddleston as Loki, the God of Mischief.

The art was designed by 19-year-old Sendi Perez Matias, who helped her classmates draw it. They blended the chalk with their hands, paper towels and sponges, pausing to re-draw areas they’d accidentally smeared.

“The more you go over it, the worse it looks,” White warned. “You really have to pay attention.”

Lauren Manning, top left, Madi Van Rensburg, center, Tayla Van Rensburg, bottom, and Janine Van Rensburg work on artwork at the Lake Worth Beach Street Painting Festival on Saturday.

Attention to detail is just one of the mental muscles the festival helps exercise, he said. So is the ability to work together, to showcase art to strangers and to learn from your mistakes.

Artists worked through lunch, pausing only to take bites out of pizza slices held out by friends and family. The annual street fair gave neighboring non-artists a chance to be crafty, too. Owners of properties bordering the festival decorated their lots with hand-painted signs: “$50 for three-hour parking.”

Hannah Phillips is a journalist covering public safety and criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at hphillips@pbpost.com.

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