(Posted Sept. 23, 2019)
By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer
With the sound of live music thrumming through his ears, his eyes soaking up the colorful displays of artwork and feeling a sense of warmth that had little to do with the cloudless sky, Noah LeMaster was in a state of bliss.
For as long as he can remember, the Plain City man has envisioned scenes just like the one taking place in his hometown but seldom had the chance to see those dreams come to fruition. It is one of the drawbacks, he noted, of living in a small community.
“We almost always have to leave town to experience the arts,” said the 20-year-old. “I just thought it would be nice to have the arts come to us for a change.”
His was a sentiment shared by Hilary Frambes.
For years, the award-winning artist and fellow Plain City resident had wanted to see an arts festival come to the village and even toyed with the idea of creating her own.
“Then I thought better of it,” she said with a laugh. “I thought there was no way I could get artists to come out to little Plain City, and then I thought there was no way people would come out to see the festival.”
Though she kept imagining a lack of interest by fellow artists and community members, the idea swirled around in her mind until she could stand it no longer.
“It got to the point where I kept asking myself, ‘Why not?’” Frambes said. “Why not Plain City? Why not take a chance?”
Nearly one year ago, Frambes went before the village council to gauge their interest in hosting a Chalk Art Festival downtown. Much to her surprise, they were all for it.
“I could hardly believe it,” she said. “I was happy but in disbelief.”
When residents got wind of her plans, they all asked the same question: Why chalk art?
“I chose chalk art due to its interactive nature,” Frambes said. “When we are out there on the streets, we are doing art in real time. People stop when they are walking by. They ask us about our technique, our creations and if we are sad that our art is not permanent.”
To the latter, she says, they are not sad at all.
“We do it and move on,” she said.
Some, like Gahanna artist Chris Fry, take pictures of their creations.
“I love working in this medium because I don’t have to bring it home, find a place to store it or worry about selling it,” he said. “With chalk art, we just take pictures to look back on what we did and then we possibly lose those photos when it is something we hate. It’s almost as if it never happened, and you can’t tell me it did because the proof has been washed away long ago.”
Fry was one of the artists who saw Frambes’s call for artists to come to Plain City’s first Chalk Art Festival and one of the first to reserve a space. He said he wanted to support his friend’s newly established festival and wow a possibly confused crowd with his eye-catching fantasy creations.
“Watching a chalk artist create can be very inspiring,” Fry said. “I wasn’t inspired to do chalk art publicly until I went to (the street painting festival) Via Colori one year. That was my introduction to street chalk art and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
With Fry making his reservation, 13 other artists across the state and Midwest region signed on for the Sept. 14 event, as well.
In the early morning, a nervous Frambes started setting up the designated space at Bicentennial Park for herself and the other artists. Her husband Jeff set up the sound stage for the live music. He is the drummer for the band The Haz Benz. Together they crossed their fingers and hoped the community would show up. And they did.
“The turnout has been so amazing,” said Frambes, who had just finished her portrait of Arnett Howard, a famed jazz musician who graduated from Jonathan Alder High School in 1968. “I am so impressed by the artists and their brilliant creations and so thankful that the community came out to support this festival.”
She said she hopes it can become an annual event and eventually grow beyond the space at Bicentennial Park.
LeMaster also hopes it will not be a one-off event.
“I think this festival was just amazing, and I’m so glad that Hilary brought this here to us,” he said. “I would love to see this festival become an annual event because it is really bringing everyone together with this great sense of wonder and connection.”