Vibrant artists showcase at Via Arte

Elias C. Ahumada, Opinions Editor


The Marketplace was host to dozens of artists, both local and out of town, in this year’s Via Arte: Italian Street Painting Festival.

The festival went on from Oct. 11-12 and was put together by the Bakersfield Museum of Art. “It’s a fundraiser for the organization and it’s now in its 16th year,” said Vikki Cruz, the museum’s executive curator.

The festival provides artists with a square on The Marketplace’s parking lot pavement where the artists can put together a piece using chalk. “All the squares are sponsored by various organizations or individuals, and so it allows for our artists to participate,” said Cruz. “It’s free for the artist to get involved and the sponsorship pays for their participation.”

Square sizes for artists vary from four-by-six squares with the largest square being 12 by 12. This year, the festival had 10 artists from out of the area, including the festivals featured artist.

This year’s featured artist rendered the largest piece in Via Arte history with a square measuring

15 by 15 feet.

Julie Kirk-Purcell, from Chino, was this year’s featured artist. Purcell has been doing street paintings for the past 23 years. “I came here a number of years ago and did a painting the first couple of years they had the event,” said Purcell. While Purcell has participated in the event before, this was her first time as a featured artist.

“I designed a 3D painting, and the imagery is all from Africa, and I think it is going to be titled something like Dreams of Africa,” she said.

Purcell noted that the intent was not for her piece to be a political statement, instead the painting symbolizes the romantic idea of what Africa would be versus what everything that is out in the media with all the political problems and most notably the health issues.

“So it is just based on a lot of that imagery of what people think Africa would be like, and it’s got a lot of animals in it, and one of the tribeswoman is in it,” stated Purcell.

The reason behind the piece becoming the largest in Via Arte history is because of the painting’s unique 3D outline.

Among the other visiting artists was Melissa De La Cruz from San Luis Obispo. This was De La Cruz’s second time working with chalk art, but “as far as involved with the art community, maybe 15 or 20 years and that can be a combination of multimedia pieces, photography, paintings, sculptures, and that’s a combination of different things over an array of time,” added De La Cruz.

Delacruz has a high interest in street art like graffiti and says that she is inspired by yards that she sees now. “It seems like there is a revitalization in graffiti,” said De La Cruz.

Local artists at Via Arte included students from high schools in the Bakersfield area. Matthew Medina, 17, and Jocelyn Cuevas, 15, from Golden Valley High School competed in their school’s art contest and their victory led them to a spot in Via Arte.

Children were also welcomed to the event. Vicky Teel, Bakersfield, took her grandkids, who are twins, Kaliyah and Kayle Elcano, 5, and the children shared a square.

Via Arte had art opportunities for all ages to attend or compete in.

Some of the awards at the event included Best in Festival Square and the winner was square number 51. Another award winning square was square number 77, Julio Jimenez, and he won Best Visiting Artist Square.

Out of the schools competing, Stockdale High School won for Best Overall School Award. Stockdale won for squares #111 and #114.

This year was the first time in Via Arte history that the event had a People’s Choice Award.

The winning square was square #57. Artists’ Darla Kendrick, Jenn Williams, and Vanessa Boel rendered that square.

The People’s Choice Award is awarded to artists that are based on the votes from the general public. The voters get the chance to vote at the event site.