Mount Vernon’s Chalk the Walk returns May 1 and 2

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 16th annual Chalk the Walk, Iowa’s largest-ever Madonnari Festival. The two-day festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, May 1 and 2, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

Chalk the Walk’s 2021 large collaborative piece of chalk art is a recreation of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch.


“This will be the first live festival in Mount Vernon in almost a year,” said Joe Jennison, Director of the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group (CDG). “And, as such, we are proceeding to plan a safe and socially distant event. We are asking everyone to follow City mandates, wear masks, and come prepared to have fun safely.”

This year’s event will feature the work of hundreds of artists utilizing a downtown city street as a canvas and more than a half-ton of chalk. Last year’s 1st Place Winner, Mary Campbell, will return to the event as the 2021 featured artist. 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 2.

“This is the 16th anniversary of Chalk the Walk,” said Matt Siders, Chair of the Chalk the Walk committee. “We have all had a seriously tough year, and the committee thought that Munch’s “The Scream” aptly characterized how we all feel. We are asking families to join us in masks, and we plan to add a mask to Munch’s piece as well. We are hoping that families will show up and let out their quarantine frustrations on a giant version of “The Scream” on Mount Vernon’s Main Street.”

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 “The Scream” image. When finished, a recreation will appear on Mount Vernon’s Main Street as a giant image. This centerpiece of Chalk the Walk 2021 will be colored with pastel chalk by dozens of artists of all ages and abilities.

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.”

An artist application is available here: 

A food vendor application is available here:

A volunteer application is available here

A sponsorship form 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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