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Street Artists Prepare for Festival

September 29, 2000|CAROL CHAMBERS

Ten years ago, Julie Kirk was headed down a completely different path from the one that will leave her kneeling in the street in Valencia next weekend.

The mother of five was following in her father's footsteps toward a career in computer science when she was bitten by the drawing bug.

"I took my first drawing class when I was 26 and that was it," Kirk said. "I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life even if I never made a dime."

Kirk is one of about 180 artists who will display their works at the second Bella Via street painting festival Oct. 7 and 8 at Valencia Town Center. She was the event's featured artist last year, when more than 20,000 people attended the two-day festival.

On Thursday, she conducted workshops for junior high and high school students in the Santa Clarita Valley who will be participating in Bella Via, teaching them the techniques of color and blending in chalk pastels.

"The best part about street painting is that it's temporary. When you're finished, it washes away," Kirk said.

"You take a surface made of oil, tar and rock that's completely abused by cars and dogs and people's feet and you turn it into a painting. People appreciate seeing the work in progress," she said.

Street painting originated in Italy around the 15th century with the Madonnari, street artists who primarily drew renderings of the Madonna, she said.

Today the street paintings range from copies of the masters' to personal photos. An artist at one street festival does a painting of his two daughters every year, Kirk said. "So we've been able to watch them grow up on the pavement."

Bella Via, sponsored by the Newhall Land & Farming Co., is patterned after I Madonnari festivals in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo and the I Giovanni del Arte in San Rafael. Bella Via is free to the public.

"Last year's event was overwhelmingly successful," Newhall Land spokeswoman Carol Maglione said. "We fully expect we will have even more people this year.

Proceeds from the festival, raised from food vendors and sponsors, benefit fine arts programs at Santa Clarita Valley schools.

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