A group of people sitting at a dock - Leisure
CAROL TEDESCO/kismet-keywest.com Sarasota based artist Stig Lindow is shown putting finishing touches on his 2012 Key West ChalkFest creation. Lindow's entry, inspired by a famous 1940's photograph of Ernest Hemingway, took three days to create and placed second in the competition.

The imagination of Key West’s artist community may not be as broad as the Universe, but it’s large and diverse and comes in a close second in size and vision. To wit, Art in Public Places presents its second annual Key West Chalk Fest at the Truman Waterfront, Thursday, Nov. 21 through Sunday, 24, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Spearheaded by Michael Shields, who first had the idea during an Arts Council meeting, the event came to life last year with 17 artists participating.

“For this year’s event,” Shields said during breakfast at Harpoon Harry’s, “we already have 30 artists signed up and I’d still like to see more.”

Shields attended the Sarasota Chalk Festival to see how a successful event runs.

“The Sarasota festival is a good example of what can happen,” Shields said. “It began with 12 artists and today it has more than 200 artists, is a six-day event and draws in about 200,000 people in those six days.”

Watching the artist create is an attraction, Shields said. This is performance art, where the process of creating is more important than the finished pieces. For many artists, the dialogue with spectators can be as rewarding as their project.

“The first day, visitors get to see the artist begin his or her creation in the 10-foot square,” Shields explained. “It’s all about layout and design. The second day, you get to see the form take shape with color and from there it’s amazing.”

Because of the details in the work, the event must almost be seen daily to follow the artists’ progress.

“To fully appreciate the work of the individual artists, a person can come back a few times in day,” Shields said. “It’s not a one-hour exhibit. It’s creation. People will come the last day and wonder about the piece, but if they’ve come daily they will experience the creation and that adds a whole other dimension to what is seen.”

Last year’s event saw about 1,000 people attend the event during its three days.

“We are hoping for more this year,” Shields said.

Judging is done on the third day. There are two categories, adult and youth, and four prizes in each category.  All fees for participating have been waived by the board of Arts in Public Places. Each artist will be issued chalk, but they can bring their own, and a 10-by-10 space to draw on.

When asked what surprised him last year, Shields was quick to respond. “The kids,” he said. “The kids did amazingly well. Their imaginations are wide open and you could see that in their drawings. A 10-year-old girl drew the Rolling Stone’s lips and that got most everyone’s attention.”

Sheild said the Key West Chalk Fest is a way to expand public art offerings, past typical paintings and sculpture.

“This allows us to mix performance with visual art. Some of the artist do work in 3-D with chalk and to watch them is an experience that will stay with the viewer forever.”

The festival takes place on the cement docks of the Truman Waterfront public area.

Registration for the event closes on Monday, Nov. 18.

For more information on registration and prizes, go to www.artinpublicplaceskw.com.