New & Developing Announcement Post 10/15/22

Many, many people were impacted in truly tragic ways by Hurricane Ian. It is one of the largest storms to hit the USA. The damage at the Venice Municipal Airport compelled the City of Venice and the Venice Airport Authorities to cancel the Chalk Festival event location. 

Triggering a spirited sense of resiliency in Denise Kowal, founder of the 501c3 nonprofit Avenida de Colores, she scrambling to find alternative sites. Finding no viable locations available on the Island of Venice or in Sarasota, she has scaling things back and created new events that will be featured in her hometown of Sarasota. There will be over 25 world-renowned 3-D pavement artists creating illusions throughout downtown Sarasota. It In addition to 3-D works, there will be a Chalk Contest & Fundraiser, Zombie and Sculpture exhibit, and large scale community mural project with Kurt Wenner, all infused into the Avenue of Art setting in the Burns Square district.

“We’re working with many different locations downtown, planning a community event, sculpture displays and a contest,” Kowal said.

Given the distribution of artwork throughout the city, there will be no admission charge this year, although donations are greatly appreciated. As locations are confirmed, they will be posted on the festival's website:

3-D Pavement Art October 28 - 31 
ONE DAY - The Sarasota Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest & Fundraiser Oct. 30
Avenue of Art - a self-guided walking tour, October 28 - 31
The Zombie sculpture exhibition Oct. 28 - Oct. 31

The current plan calls for assembling 25 world renowned pavement artists from 15 countries to create their illusions between Oct. 28-30 at individual sites in Sarasota. Kowal is still working on securing private and public locations. Artists from Turkey, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, Japan and Ukraine are already here, with artists from Italy, Spain, France, Australia, Netherlands, Columbia, Brazil and east and west coast US coming imminently. They will mostly be housed at Kowal’s hotel, the Burns Square Historic Vacation Rentals and throughout Laurel Park. In this hotel, you will find murals by two of these artists and throughout the neighborhood is the Avenue of Art, a self-guided walking tour of 210 paintings on the sidewalks by artists ranging from 4 to 94 years of age from 20+ countries.

This years theme is still “Spirited”, but with a focus on creating 3D art installations. There will also be Zombies, giant Spooky Sculptures, the Sarasota Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest & Fundraiser and a community mural project. This community component, with 3-D chalk artist Kurt Wenner overseeing, will involve multiple artists collaborating.

Kowal envisions a spring event that will showcase traditional 2-D artwork and the flower-based art of “Infiorata” and “Rangoli,” that was expected to highlight this year’s show.

What happened?

Hurricane Ian pummeled the area on September 28. As early as October 1, Kowal started exploring Ian's impact on the Venice Airport Festival Grounds using satellite imagery from NOAA at to see how it fared. Immediately after the hurricane, the grounds became a staging area for Florida Power & Light crews, restoring electricity across the region with over 1500 workers housed in tents. 

The City of Venice had indicated the power company trucks would be gone in time for the event early on, but, on Oct. 7, Assistant City Manager James Clinch sent Kowal an email explaining that after FP&L vacates the area, the Venice Airport Authorities will have to assess and repair any damage at the festival grounds, therefore the Airport location is not available. In addition, police, fire and public safety staff, deeply involved with hurricane recovery, were not available to support the event. 

Over 130 contracts had to be broken as well as canceling flights, Airbnb stays, hotels rooms, supplies, services and equipment contracts, and volunteers notified, ticket purchases refunded and so forth all had to be reversed this week. Two years of work had to be backpedaled. The negative impact to the organization is several hundred thousand dollars. 

Kowal continued to contact the City of Venice for updates and alternate locations as the recovery continued, but ultimately after no viable locations were found she had to make the call to put together a different version of the Chalk Festival in Sarasota.

Among the challenges of cancellations and refunds, the Chalk Festival gave ticket buyers an option to donate the ticket price. Generously, some ticket holders chose to donate their tickets to the non-profit 501c3 Avenida de Colores. Also Avenida de Colores reached out to grant underwriters, such as the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, expressing the wish to make the event free. This was met with a $10,000 sponsorship commitment. 

This is a developing story, as events are actively being planned and updated. For questions, contact