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South Jordan Journal

Chalk festival provides Elk Ridge students opportunity for art, connection, friendship

Nov 03, 2022 07:28PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Elk Ridge Middle School student Grant Allen was excited to take part in the school’s semiannual chalk festival.

“This is my ninth-grade year; it's my last year at this school,” Allen said. “I always wanted to do this, so this year is a good time to do it.”

He teamed up with his ceramics classmate, eighth-grader Hailey Durham; she participated in the festival last year.

“It’s a good experience to see other people's art and ideas and this is a fun way to collaborate with others,” she said.

“The theme is acceptance. I thought our drawing is a good and simple way to show that. We show two different races kind of coming together; it shows there isn't really a difference between anyone despite the color of their skin.”

Allen added, “Everyone is the same. We're all still human; there's no reason you should treat other people differently.”

In mid-September, students submitted a sketch of their design to be accepted by a selection committee. The 15 chosen pairs met the morning of Oct. 7  for teacher Mollie Gonzales to give directions and tips to creating their chalk drawings in front of the school.

After design areas were taped out in either five-by-five or six-by-six squares, they created their designs proportionally. They used pool noodles to blend the chalk colors. Lastly, they give their drawing a title.

Allen and Durham’s artwork is entitled, “Accept Everyone.”

Following the theme, others created their artwork: Dr. Seuss characters, trees, snails, a hand shaping an OK sign, fish swimming together and more.

“Acceptance is a great theme,” Gonzales said. “We know there is social justice and a lot of different kinds of political comments that are being made, but we talked about how they can convey this message through our artwork. We want their art to invite those deep conversations.”

She hopes students are learning how to work together and to find a connection to each other and the school.

“The past couple years, I find more and more, students are distancing from each other and sometimes just following social media,” Gonzales said. “With this, everybody's engaged in what they're doing. They’re using their phones only to look up something or to play music. They’re having fun, hanging out, being out in the sunshine.”

Art, she said, is needed in their lives.

“Kids need art. They need a form of expression that's not on their phone. Using their hands and being connected to making something, producing it and being proud of it is something they just don't have much anymore. They’re also learning to have confidence in their art and they’re needing this outlet more after the past couple of years with COVID with the lock down and disconnection. They need each other; they need the community. This festival builds friends. There's always a range of different kids that come out and bond,” Gonzales said.

After the student-artists are done, classes parade by their chalk drawings. Over the next few days to weeks, parents and the community also stop by.

“They’re not as sharp, but they’re still here. In fact, there's some of these kids that did their chalk right on top of the old square from last May,” she said.

After the festival, Gonzales provides each student with their sketch, laminated.  There are no prizes.

“Except for maybe being covered in chalk,” Durham joked.