Heart of the city

Sidewalk chalk brings more than pretty pictures to Biddeford
By IAN PAIGE  |  October 3, 2007
inside_art_chalk1_SuboneWor
DETAIL, S.U.B.O.N.E. WORKSHOPS

On Saturday, September 29, crowds of people flocked to Biddeford’s downtown to see 36 artists’ cement-inspired masterpieces at the Chalk on the Walk festival. Local businesses sponsored individual blocks of sidewalk and let the artists get to work over the course of the day. Hundreds of children contributed to a 50-foot mural and checked out a petting zoo. Bands played and local non-profits set up booths, yard sales, and craft tables.

Rachael Weyand is the executive director of Heart of Biddeford, one of nine Maine city non-profits associated with the National Trust. She works with a band of volunteers as Biddeford's part of a national ongoing project to revitalize downtown districts.

Biddeford’s post-industrial landscape is definitely changing for the better, in large part due to Weyand and company’s diligence. Over the last few years, the collective million square feet of abandoned mill-space has become palatable to small-businesses and artists (see "Where Have All The Artists Gone?" by Sara Donnelly, August 12, 2006).

art_chalk3_kidsinside
DETAIL, KID'S MURAL

Weyand isn’t focused exclusively on art, but she knows it’s part of the equation. She says, “It’s not the overall goal of the organization to attract artists to downtown, but it’s what is going to work. We’re not going to get these factories back, these department stores. Artists are the beginning. It worked decades ago in Chelsea, and recently in Portland, in Portsmouth. Phase two of our plan is to ensure that it remains affordable for artists.” This New York-like energy is palpable — community members are trying to forge their own way, creating new opportunities out of perceived failures.

There were several categories of winners at this year’s festival, including Portland’s own Tim Clorius and Andrew Coffin, collectively known as S.u.b.O.n.e. Workshops, who walked away with the People’s Choice award for Most Original. The possibilities for a vibrant exchange between Portland and nearby Biddeford are already under way, and festivals like Chalk on the Walk give us a convenient excuse to visit our neighbors.

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Ian Paige: ianpaige@gmail.com

  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Tim Clorius, Rachael Weyand, Andrew Coffin
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