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Labor of Love Doesn't Last : Couple's elaborate mural will be part of chalk art created for fund-raiser.


Like most husband-and-wife teams who work together, Thomas and Maureen Cox have their differences. But there's one thing the artists from Woodland Hills agree on: When participating in a street-painting festival, it's best to sit while you work.

"The first year we did it, we were both on our hands and knees, and we needed a good massage afterward," Thomas, 43, said.

Maureen, 41, recalls being very sore: "Yeah, it was pretty painful. But we learned from it," she said.

The Coxes will participate in their fourth Chalk It Up festival this weekend at Universal CityWalk. The event has been held at different locations in its previous four years, but promoters say Universal CityWalk will be its permanent home.

Chalk It Up will feature more than 350 artists from all over the world in a massive street-painting festival to raise money for the Light-Bringer Project, a nonprofit arts organization that raises money for community arts programs.

The artists will use chalk as their medium and the pavement as their canvas to create colorful murals in styles varying from classical to contemporary to whimsical.

The event is similar to the popular European street-painting festivals, specially those in Italy where artists are called Madonnaros after their historical practice of creating chalk paintings of the Madonna.

Thomas, a print maker who specializes in block printing, and Maureen, a textile designer in the garment industry, have a good idea what they will paint on their 6-by-7-foot mural this weekend, though they may change their mind come Saturday morning.

So far the plan is to create a huge iguana crawling out of the ground.

Their thinking was that iguanas remind people of dinosaurs, "so it would be appropriate since we're at Universal and 'The Lost World,' " Thomas said.

In previous years the Coxes have created architecturally based drawings, like the Los Angeles library reflected in a pool.

"It takes about 15 to 20 hours to complete and it's not easy work, but it's a lot of fun," Maureen said.

The hardest part is seeing your art hosed down after so much work, Thomas says. Maureen disagrees, saying it's not a big deal that at the end of the festival the colorful and creative drawings are washed away and the cement reappears as if nothing was ever there.

"It's painful for me because we put so much into it," Thomas said. "But we take pictures."

So, why slave away for so many hours and no pay only to see your creation destroyed before your eyes?

"It's a great community event and you do feel a sense of accomplishment," Thomas said.

Maureen likes the camaraderie and feedback from the public.

"I really enjoy meeting a lot of different artists and seeing their work," she said.

Previous Chalk It Up festivals have attracted participants from virtually every major Los Angeles area museum, art school and cultural center.

At last year's festival, Kurt Wenner, considered one of the world's greatest Madonnaros, created the centerpiece mural, a bottle of Absolut vodka.

Thomas and Maureen will begin their project around 7 a.m. Saturday. Thomas will start it off sketching, then Maureen will color in.

"It's a lot of pressure on me because she's just sitting around while I sketch," Thomas said.

"We're both very opinionated and it's not always easy to agree on the end result."

For Maureen, it's always stressful at the beginning of such a large project with her husband.

"We disagree on a lot of things, but once you get over that initial tension, it's fine," she said. "By the end we're happy campers."


Chalk It Up at Universal CityWalk adjacent to Universal Studios Hollywood. Event will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults. Information: 622-4455.

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