Avenue Art is April 30 on the downtown mall
Artists’ entry deadline is extended to April 15
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
Chalk up another one for Las Cruces artist Bob Diven.
With support from the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership (DLCP), he is hosting the fifth annual Avenue Art street painting competition on Saturday, April 30 on Main Street south of Griggs Avenue in front of School for the Americas on the downtown mall.
You can come and watch artists as they begin their artwork early in the morning and then come back throughout the day to watch their progress. There is no charge to attend.
There is also no charge to sign up as an artist and compete in the event.
“Avenue Art is an artist- friendly event,” Diven said. “We supply the materials, hundreds of people get to see their work and they learn and grow from the experience.” Participating artists are even fed during the event, he said.
The deadline for artists to sign up has been extended to Friday, April 15, Diven said. Artists will receive notification of acceptance by Monday, April 18, he said. Avenue Art is a juried show, so artists must submit samples of their work and a sketch of what they plan to do for the festival.
Avenue Art has three categories: 1) young artists (elementary and middle school-age students); 2) high school and college students; and 3) professionals, for ages 24 and above. Cash prizes will be awarded to winners in each category, and to an audience favorite.
Diven will offer a workshop for participating artists beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 23 at the corner of Main Street and Griggs Avenue. During the workshop, Diven said he will be teaching first-time street painters “the tricks I’ve learned over the years,” including what makes a good street painting.
Diven came up with the idea for Avenue Art after winning the grand prize (for his painting “Rex Awakes”) in the El Paso Chalk the Block Downtown Art Festival in 2011. He also won Best of Show and Best Original Painting for a cowgirl painting he did in Denver’s first ever Chalk Art Festival in 2003.
In August 2014, Diven created “Wall Street,” a 240-foot temporary “street art” installation at the Lore Degenstein Gallery at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.
DLCP has been the perfect partner to bring the festival to life and keep it growing every year in Las Cruces, he said. “I needed an organization, and the DLCP stepped up and took it on.”
An individual or business can sponsor an artist at Avenue Art for $150, can sponsor Diven’s work (he’s not competing in the festival, just creating) for $500 or be a marquee sponsor for $2,000.
Diven said artists will begin signing in at 6 a.m. and will start their paintings at 7 a.m. The work will continue until 2 p.m., with an awards ceremony beginning at 2:15 p.m.
He suggested visitors come early to watch the artists start their paintings, then wander the Farmers Market just north of the festival, have breakfast or lunch and come back several times to watch the paintings progress.
“How many times do you get to watch a painting being created?” Diven asked. “It’s almost as much performance as it is art.”
Diven said artists can use chalk, pastels and tempura paint (a water- based paint that is often used to create a base coat) for their paintings, but no permanent materials are allowed.
Each participating artist or team of artists has a five-foot-by-five-foot or four-foot-by-six-foot section of asphalt to work with. Asphalt, he said, “turns out to be a delightful medium. It takes chalk and pastel really well.”
Artists must also deal with whatever weather conditions are present on the day of the festival.
“The painting changes even while it’s being painted,” Diven said. “Small micro-breezes are moving the pastel and the chalk around. A painting is this kind of living thing.”
Painting in a small space means artists can finish their work in the allotted time, but “they feel the pressure of the deadline,” Diven said. “It just adds to the excitement of the day. It’s just a great energy down there.”
Depending on the weather and the traffic along Main Street, the paintings could linger for hours, days or even weeks. But, like Navajo sand paintings and Tibetan madalas, none of them is permanent.
“There’s a certain freedom in creating something that won’t last,” Diven said. “You could just as well ask a stage actor, ‘Why do all those weeks of rehearsing for a live performance that lasts two hours?’ There’s a certain extravagance in pouring so much of yourself into something that lasts for only moments.” Like sand painting and mandala artists, street painters are “recognizing that everything is temporary,” he said. “In a philosophical sense, life is short, why not make art?”
“It’s just a cool thing,” Diven said. “People get it. The artists get it. It’s remarkable. It’s a very unique experience for everybody.”
Diven said there will be a special non-competition area for little kids to draw in during the festival. These “aspiring artists” see others creating art on the sidewalk, and, with special chalk supplied by Diven, they can join in.
For more information, visit https://www. facebook.com/AvenueArtNewMexico
, http:// downtownlascruc es.org/home/avenue-art/ and downtownlascruces. org.