Color it fun: Chalk and chocolate make for a family-friendly evening

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Aiyana Ferrante (left), 4, of Wyandotte; Ashley Forner, 7, of West Bloomfield; James Forner, 9, of West Bloomfield; and Devon Forner, 11, of Wyandotte, create sidewalk chalk art near Maple and Biddle Aug. 30 during Wyandotte’s Chalk and Chocolate Walk.

Times-Herald Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Whether they sported smudges of chalk or chocolate,
children and adults alike enjoyed the second annual Chalk and Chocolate Walk Aug. 30 sponsored by the Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority.

DDA Director Natalie Rankine said since Wyandotte is home to many artists as well as three galleries within a few blocks of each other downtown, DDA officials felt it was a great way to showcase professional, emerging and student artists using sidewalk chalk as a medium while also featuring chocolate creations, giveaways
and special menu items from local restaurants.

“We are a walkable community, so we thought it would be a nice to have a little walking art tour while you’re walking around on the streets,” Rankine said. “We actually have artists from Ohio this year; we have a couple from Sterling Heights and Rochester Hills. After our last event we actually had artists contact us and want to be a part of it.”

In addition to special chocolate desserts in the restaurants, local retail shops offered special sales and free chocolate samples.
“It’s a good event for retail, it’s a good date for restaurants and it’s a good event for summertime walking around,” Rankine said.
Before walking around to the different venues, Jennifer Powers of Luna Pier, a Wyandotte native, sat and relaxed with her husband and baby while their five older children created sidewalk chalk art near the clock tower at Maple and Elm. She said in addition to providing
her children with time with their grandmother, the event is family friendly and inexpensive. She said she planned to meet up with friends from her high school days and their children while at the Chalk and Chocolate Walk.

Jennifer Forner of Wyandotte, who said she loves going downtown,
said the event is a way for her children, as well as a niece, nephew and granddaughter, who ranged in age from a teen to a 4-year-old, to enjoy an activity together that appeals to all ages. She said she also likes seeing friends from her children’s schools and sports teams while they created sidewalk chalk art near Maple and Biddle, and she likes that the sidewalk chalk activity is free and encourages
creativity in her children. She said they planned to walk around later and sample some of the chocolates at stores along the route shown on the DDA-provided map, and was glad the evening would not cost her a lot of money.

“It’s nice to be out here with the kids,” Forner said. “We’re such a diverse group. They should continue to have more events like this so families can get together. It brings the people back.”

Kelly Slack Ray of Lincoln Park, who is a youth librarian in Wyandotte, said many people recognized her and stopped to talk as she handed out free chocolates in front of River’s Edge Gallery, 3024 Biddle, which her mother, Patt Slack, owns and operates. Ray said the Chalk and Chocolate Walk was definitely drawing
customers into the gallery, people who would not normally be strolling around downtown.

Patty Manzella, owner of The Candy Store, 3209 Biddle, who was busy offering samples of dark chocolate raspberry jellies and milk chocolate strawberry cheesecake, said she was too busy to work the register but believed sales were up that evening.

Manzella said she enjoys watching families come into her candy store. “They love it,” she said of the children. “They come in here and they are very happy and awestruck. “One of my favorite things is when I see the generations come in: grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, and then the grandkids – I love that. Just listening to the stories or (seeing) the smiles on everybody’s faces. It brings back a lot of memories for people to hear them talk about their candies.”

In addition to appreciative reactions to the chocolate, passersby offered ample praise to the chalk artists as they watched the sidewalk art works in progress.

Ant Head of Wyandotte, a professional artist, was creating four Oroboros-inspired dragons with sidewalk chalk in a circle in front of Nanna’s Kitchen, 2962 Biddle, as people walked by. Head said his four dragons in a circle, symbolizing earth, water, air and fire, with each devouring the tail of the dragon in front of it, received a lot of positive feedback.

Even though he had only colored in one of the four dragons at that point, he said he enjoys getting feedback on his work-in-progress. “As I am doing it I like that people are like, ‘Oh, wow! That’s neat!’ and it’s not even close to finished yet,” Head said. He said he was a chalk artist at last year’s event for the fun of it, but said he is pleased that the DDA paid him to create chalk art again this year. He said he definitely hopes to return next year for the next Chalk and Chocolate Walk.

Professional artist Kelly Luttrell, also a second-
year participant, created his geometric shape-inspired chalk art on the brick portion of the sidewalk on the west side of Biddle between Oak and Elm. He said he enjoyed the reactions he heard from children. “The kids like the shapes and the colors,” Luttrell said. “I get a lot of responses from the kids, too.”

Luttrell, whose main medium is photography, said he occasionally dabbles with public art creation. “Anything that brings people out into the downtown area is great by me,” he said.

Rankine said that, including the student artists, Head and Lutrell were among more than 20 artists creating sidewalk chalk art. She said additional sidewalk space and chalk was set aside intentionally
for people of all ages to try their hand at the medium.

“Everyone else can be an artist,” Rankine said. “You see the kids … here are chalking it up, so we have a couple other nodes in the downtown where there’s just chalk laying out where people can draw, so it will be a fun family event for all ages.”