Chalk art events are becoming a signature of Fort Oglethorpe, and that makes a lot of local people happy, including Thriving Communities Director Chris McKeever.
McKeever says the potential of chalk art to bring the community together was first brought to her attention by artist Durenda Cheek, who is a member of the board of directors at the Sixth Cavalry Museum, which is run by McKeever.
“Every time Durenda was at a festival where there was chalk art,” says McKeever, “she would call and tell me we really needed to bring it to Fort Oglethorpe.”
McKeever and another board member finally visited the two-day chalk art event in Marietta, hosted by the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art. They met Zach Herndon and his wife Jessie Queen, co-founders the Georgia Chalk Artists Guild.
“Zach and Jessie have been partnering with us to help make chalk art a part of our community,” says McKeever.
In March, Thriving Communities invited chalk artist and guild member Meg Mitchell to feature in an event at Gilbert Stephenson Park in Fort Oglethorpe. Mitchell spent all day covering large squares of pavement at the park with beautifully drawn local historical scenes, including a horse and monuments.
Mitchell returned to the community for Patriotism at the Park on July 3. Herndon and Queen were also at the event working their wonders on the street.
The unique thing about these artists is that they didn’t mind sharing their canvas with amateurs. The community, from children to adults, was invited to stake out a space on the street and draw to their hearts’ content. For those not inclined to drop to their knees on the road, standing chalk boards, made with materials donated by Home Depot, stood at the ready.
“We gave sponsored stipends to our three primary artists,” says McKeever. “The others were part of the competition we held.”
North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation sponsored Zach Herndon, who recreated a WAC — Women’s Army Corp — member, like the ones who trained at Fort Oglethorpe in the 1940s.
Callahan Mechanical sponsored Jessie Queen who etched out the theme of the event — I Love America — by drawing an American Bald Eagle in a circle.
Battleview Bed & Breakfast sponsored Meg Mitchell, who depicted the heroine Wonder Woman.
When the artists at Patriotism at the Post were finished and the judges had made their considerations, first prize went to Fayetteville resident and chalk artist Heather Cap for her drawing called “Hands of Freedom” depicting a man sewing an American flag.
Cap, who moved to Georgia from Arizona with her husband to take advantage of the state’s thriving film industry, says the thing she loves about chalk art is the fact that it’s temporary. “It frees you to keep moving on to new things without accumulating a bunch of art and worrying what to do with it.”
Second place went to Charles Herndon, Zach Herndon’s dad and a relative newbie to chalk art, for his depiction of Captain America.
Melissa Lohr, who was inspired, along with her daughter, to pursue chalk art by Cap, took third place for her colorful drawing of the Statue of Liberty. When Lohr isn’t creating art at festivals, she and her daughter draw in their driveway for the enjoyment of passing joggers.
McKeever says the community should expect to see more chalk art and is welcome to join in. “We’ll be doing this again at Labor Day at the Post and we invite everyone to try their hand at. It’s great for any age and any skill level.”