by Joey Phoenix
Images Courtesy of Studioful Design
This Spring, Studioful Design, in collaboration with the City of Salem, commissioned four local artists – Maia Mattison, Anna Dugan, Keshia de Leon, and Tia Cole – to create eight different chalk art murals around the city for Chalk Art Saturdays, a weekly program to inspire strength and togetherness in Salem during this time of physical distancing. The project also encouraged community members to get out and make chalk art themselves.
What happened was that each Saturday, the city filled up with chalk art, brightening the sidewalks and inspiring people to walk around to discover the new art.
“It was inspiring to see each individual artist really want to do something that connects to their community. We’re all wanting to be outside, and this allowed people to do that while still being safe” said Claudia Paraschiv, owner of Studioful Design.
Art as Identity, Art as a Community Message
Chalk art is one of the most temporary forms of art when done in public spaces, which creates a unique opportunity for it to convey real-time messages addressing current issues.
With the heightened awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, Claudia pulled all four artists together to create a special mural in Derby Square on June 6th. “They had less than 24 hours notice,” Claudia mentioned.
“[This project] made me think a lot about how [we can] activate space in a more profound way. It’s not like a mural is ever just a mural, but all the pieces felt just very personal and very of the moment for the artists,” she said.
And it wasn’t just the main four artists themselves that took to themes of social justice, but community members also created their own messages. Wendy Casazza Scruton of Notso Kitty was also a contributor each week. “[Notso Kitty] really made it her own and she stuck to the prompts and everything,” Claudia said.
Now that the Salem Chalk Art Saturdays project is over, Claudia will continue the project in Chelsea, which will have a very different feel than in Salem. In Chelsea, the art will be revitalizing a central downtown district rather than spread throughout the city.
“Each weekend just walking around my neighborhood with my daughter in Salem, I would see little pieces of chalk art and those never made it on Instagram, no one posted about those,” she said. “Public art has a way of empowering people to realize that they can make art too.”