Every year, in the midst of Long Beach’s beautiful fall weather, dozens of creative individuals flock to Second Street for a day of community interaction, art appreciation, and dirty, chalk-covered hands.
The Belmont Shore Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest took place Saturday attracting hundreds of people roaming the Shore and seeing incredible art installations popping up all around them—right under their feet. Artists worked for seven hours, some perfecting their work, some working frantically to finish before the deadline, and others just having fun putting their hands to chalk.
“We start at 9 a.m. and we’ll keep working on them until 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Just like any artist, you’re never really done,” said Caesar Feliz, an animation student at CSUN and four-time chalk art contestant.
Over the years, he says he’s become known as the “Superhero Guy,” always receiving exciting reactions from kids who stumble upon his depictions of popular comic book characters like Batman, Dr. Strange, Hellboy, and this year, Spiderman.
“There’s definitely some crazy talented people here that do photorealism with pastels. That’s a whole other league and understanding of the material, but it’s fun. I just enjoy it.”
One of the contestants who created an incredibly realistic image in chalk was Jennifer Ripassa from La Mirada, who travels around the country doing chalk art festivals. Other talented artists came from our own backyard, like contractor Mike Hardey of East Long Beach. His depiction of a Syrian refugee child caught the eye of every bystander.
“It was this or I was going to do LeBron in a Lakers jersey, so very much opposite,” he said with a chuckle. “But I want to have a little more depth and meaning behind what I’m doing.”
He was joined by his partner, Yeggi Watts, her daughter Lily, and the newest addition to the family, their four-month-old baby. Watts not only had her hands busy with the baby; as Ms. Long Beach, she got her hands dirty during a beach cleanup that morning before heading to Second Street and covering those same hands in chalk.
Even eight-year-old Lily created chalk art pieces that earned praise from people walking up and down Belmont Shore. Watts says it’s a family industry and many nights in their home are spent doing art projects. Hardey also mentioned a daughter at home who didn’t meet the age requirement for this year’s contest, but would be there next year.
“[Eventually] we’ll take up the whole block,” he said.
However, this year, the largest group of contestants belonged to The Rancho Los Amigos Foundation Adult Art Program, an art therapy program for people with disabilities.
Andrew Bordeos and Tammy Luu accompanied her father, Phong Luu, a member of the Rancho Los Amigos group who is recovering from a stroke. Phong is a gifted artist who used to work primarily with oil using his right hand. But after suffering from a stroke, he lost a lot of functionality in his right hand, so he’s learning to use his left. At the chalk festival Saturday, he recreated one of his own paintings he made before his stroke, using a new hand and a new medium.
The group’s excursion was organized by Becky Bershtel, nine-time chalk art contestant and recreation therapist at Rancho for 11 years.
“It’s just a great way to expose your art to the community,” Bershtel said. “Especially for our population, it’s just really cool to integrate them into the community because they’re great artists too.”
For more on the Belmont Shore Sidewalk Chalk Art Contest, see our full photo gallery on the 908 App.