First Chalk Fest held in downtown Nicholasville

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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Last Saturday was a sunny, breezy and busy afternoon at the Performance Park on South Main Street as Jessamine County’s first Chalk Fest occurred.

The event also kicked off an acclaimed artist’s time in the community.

Visit Jessamine executive director Charla Reed organized the event – piping in music to the park and inviting several food trucks and local businesses to sell their wares. At the same time, families and friends from Jessamine County and surrounding areas create their chalk masterpieces.

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“We just thought what better way to kick it off to not only have our artist create, but have our community create as well,” Reed said.

Reed found the artist Anat Ronen on Google when searching for someone who could bring interactive art to the county.

Ronen is a Houston, Texas-based artist who started painting later in life. It wasn’t a passion-driven initiative for her. It was a decision based on survival.

“I’ve been doing this for fifteen years now. I am self-taught, and this started because of a life need, not following any dream,” Ronen said. “It was an immigration story. My husband, son, and I immigrated from Israel, and art became our means to stay here, and that’s how it stayed. And only a few months ago, I got my citizenship after 17 years here. I’m very grateful to be doing this. This is by far better than the office job I used to have.”

Ronen focuses on large-scale pieces that are sometimes anamorphic- they are an illusion to the eye, only showing the “magic” in one particular viewing perspective.

During the chalk fest, Ronen didn’t use chalk but used a more lasting route for her temporary pieces.

“You have to stand in one particular point of view to see the magic happen. From any other angle, it looks weird. So, I’m making a couple of toys and working with washable tempera paint, which is a lot more resistant than chalk, so people can stand on it, sit on it, interact with it, and have fun with it,” Ronen said.

But, this event was only meant to kick off Ronen’s time in the county. Throughout this week, Ronen will be painting permanent murals around the county. She plans on creating three murals and one smaller surprise mural.

A few months ago, Ronen came to Jessamine County to scout out some areas for murals and see some of the scenery the county has to offer, including the river and a few other local attractions.

“(The murals will) cater to the local scenery and local wildlife. I love animals and try to integrate them into my work,” Ronen said.

The first mural in the Performance Park will be the only one to feature horses. The other murals will feature local wildlife, like butterflies and the Kentucky River.

“You know, many murals are just artists who come and take on the wall- conquer the wall, and none of these are full-wall murals. They’re more working with the walls, working with the architecture, playing with it. So, it’s a part of the scenery and not just a plastered art piece on the world,” Ronen said. “It’ll be interesting to beautify the downtown area. And give it a little bit of pop. And I hope that people will like it and relate to it.”

Reed was thrilled to be able to host an event like this- to be able to bring art downtown and to make a kick-off event for the whole family.

“We’re excited to have something fun and different. Something for the whole family where they can just come down and relax and have a creative moment together. A lot of families are doing art together, and some are doing their own. Some are just taking a few minutes, and some are taking a lot of time,” Reed said. “So it’s just kind of an artsy day.”

According to Reed, one family who follows Visit Jessamine on social media drove to Jessamine County from Lexington to enjoy the festival.

Already, Reed is thinking about the future for art after Ronen’s time in Jessamine County: “We’re hoping that we can add more to our towns, Wilmore and Nicholasville so that people can come and maybe explore the different areas in our county. So we can bring visitors into not only see the wonderful assets in our county like Highbridge, Wilmore and Camp Nelson, but they can also have some art experiences here in our county.”