Sidewalk masterpieces

Sidewalk masterpieces

Published: June 27, 2012 (Issue # 1715)

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The Colors of St. Petersburg festival celebrates all kinds of street art, including 3D drawings.

This weekend will see street art take over the city’s Krestovsky Island for the holding of a new festival.

The Colors of St. Petersburg international street art festival began in 2009 as a student project. While studying popular art trends at St. Petersburg State University of Civil Aviation for a competition, Yelizaveta Belova and Viktoria Alexeyeva came across a street art festival — in which artists create temporary art in a public space — being held in Italy. The festival was in its 37th year, while a festival of its kind had never been held in Russia. Belova and Alexeyeva then made it their mission to organize Russia’s first street art festival.

For the better part of the next three years, they sought sponsors to finance the festival, but were time and again faced with empty hands and closed doors. By the beginning of 2010, Belova, chairman of the Colors of St. Petersburg festival, said she felt distraught and ready to give up, and looked to the street artists she had met during her research for encouragement. Their reactions, coupled with an invigorating four months spent in New York City, helped to renew her passion for the project and her commitment to finding sponsors. She soon found financial support from the Russian Union of Youth of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Oblast and began planning Russia’s first international street art festival.

The festival, which runs from Saturday, June 30 through Sunday, July 1, will feature an impressive array of artists and projects, with more than 80 artists from all over Russia and abroad participating. The festival will also feature several internationally-renowned street artists: Tracy Lee Stum from the U.S., who currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest chalk drawing by an individual, Dutch artist Peter Westerink and Mexican artist Adriana del Rocio Garcia Hernandez.

Visitors to Krestovsky Island will begin to see artists lay the foundations of their exhibits days in advance, using chalk, dry pastels, pigments, pressed charcoal and tempora paint.

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Street art masterclasses will be held on both Saturday and Sunday.

“Street art takes three to seven days to create,” said Belova. “It depends on the subject matter and how many artists are working on the project, as well as many other factors.”

The term street art (or post-graffiti art) refers to art drawn on a public space (such as sidewalks) that moves beyond its roots of graffiti and vandalism to include both sanctioned and non-sanctioned public displays that aim to engage the public. They often carry a social message, like those by the iconic U.K. street artist Banksy. The themes for this year’s drawings were left to the discretion of the artists, and will not be revealed until the works are being created.

Part of street art’s appeal is due to the fact that it is accessible. Accordingly, interaction and participation have become important factors for Belova and her planning team. One of their key goals is to involve the St. Petersburg public in dialogue about contemporary culture and creative expression.

“Anyone who wants can look at the finished work of an artist, but artists usually create their masterpieces at home, away from the eyes of others,” said Belova. “This is an opportunity to be present during the birth of a masterpiece.”

To capitalize on this creative interaction, the Colors of St. Petersburg festival will also comprise various street games on June 30, parkour demonstrations on July 1, and master classes and a children’s zone where younger visitors will be able to create their own masterpieces throughout the duration of the festival.

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The festival aims to be interactive.

Belova hopes that the festival will convince sponsors to help her organize more events in Russia.

“Nowadays, many people spend most of their time on the Internet, sitting at a computer,” said Belova.

“We need to pull our young people out of their virtual reality and into the reality of life. Here, in real life, there are opportunities to learn something new, set goals and achieve them. Art brings people together.”

The Colors of St. Petersburg festival runs on Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to

8 p.m. near Divo Ostrov amusement park on Krestovsky Island. M. Krestovsky Ostrov.

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