Sidewalk Express

Artists paint the streets in tandem with the FirstWorks Festival


The 13th annual Providence Rotary Street Painting Festival returns to the Bank of America Skating Rink on September 29, the same day as the FirstWorks Festival. Happening between noon and 9pm, the Street Painting Festival pits artists against each other for fame, glory and cash prizes, in addition to gift certificates to local venues. Think of it like a gladiatorial arena of local artistry.

“The rink will be transformed into a sea of color, creativity and activity as nearly 300 artists of all ages and talent create imaginative masterpieces on the concrete floor with artist-grade pastel chalk,” says Suzanna Cannon, a member of the Rotary Club of Providence.

Each artist is given a 4’x4’ or 8’x8’ plot of skating rink cement, depending on what the artist requested during the application process and available space. Using the provided 48 colors of pastel chalk and bottled water, artists must then make a piece of artwork based on this year’s theme: Peace Through Service and Providence’s 375th Anniversary Celebration.

“Each year, five to six well-known regional artists judge the event,” says Cannon. At 6:30pm, these celebrity judges hand out first, second and third place prizes to each age category. In addition, the audience can purchase $1 tokens that allow them to vote for their favorite piece of artwork. When it comes time for judging, the three artists with the most tokens win the first, second and third place People’s Choice awards, the highest paying awards of the whole event.

All proceeds from the Street Painting Festival benefit the Providence Rotary Charities Foundation, which makes grants each year to organizations that enrich the lives of underserved children in and around Providence.

“This signature event is one clearly identified with Rotary, run by Rotarians and benefiting Rotary charities,” says Cannon, adding that FirstWorks attendees will be able to walk through the skating rink and buy food and drink while enjoying the drawings.