Chalk the Walk to take place May 6 and 7

The City of Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon Parks and Recreation, the Mount Vernon Area Arts Council and the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Charitable Development Group (CCDG) have announced the dates for the 18th annual Chalk the Walk, Iowa’s largest-ever Madonnari Festival. The two-day festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, May 6 and 7, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day along Mount Vernon’s historic 1st Street.

The committee has chosen Van Gogh’s “Artist Bedroom at Arles” as its large community piece this year. For a $10 donation to the festival, any interested festival participant will be given a set of chalk sticks to create a single 2’ by 2’ square of a portion of the “Van Gogh” image. When finished, a recreation will appear on Mount Vernon’s Main Street as a giant image. This centerpiece of Chalk the Walk 2023 will be created with pastel chalk by dozens of artists of all ages and abilities.

“Mount Vernon and the Chalk the Walk committee have been admiring and considering this painting as our main piece for several years now,” said Matt Siders, Director of Parks and Rec for the City of Mount Vernon and Chair of the Chalk the Walk Committee. “The committee discussed the bright colors and the iconic nature of this simple but important work of art and decided that this was the year to honor Van Gogh.”

This year’s event also will feature the work of dozens of artists creating original art in 8’ by 10’ rectangles chalked directly onto Mount Vernon’s historic 1st Street. Last year’s 1st Place Winners, Brielle Hufendick, Eliza Nelson and Matt Nelson, have been invited back to the event as the 2023 featured artists. Outdoor food vendors and musicians will be on hand throughout both days of the event.

More than $1,375 in cash prizes will be awarded to chalk artists this year, with a formal check presentation ceremony to take place Sunday afternoon, May 7.

Chalk the Walk is based on an original art form that began in Italy in the 16th century. Called Madonnari, this form of public art was originally done by street artists hoping to collect coins from passersby. Images back then were based on religious themes, and as the Madonna was a popular subject, the artists became known as the “Madonnari.”

Applications are here

  • An artist application is available here:
  • A food vendor application is available here:
  • A volunteer application is available here:

About Mount Vernon

Historic Mount Vernon, Iowa, is home to 4500 residents, including 1200 college students enrolled at Cornell College. Located in Eastern Iowa at the intersection of Highways 30 and 1, 20 miles north of Iowa City and 15 miles east of Cedar Rapids, it boasts a vibrant uptown business community with numerous antique and specialty stores, restaurants, coffee houses, commercial art galleries, and three National Historic Districts.

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