It's a tradition nearly as old as the Savannah College of Art and Design itself.

On April 29, Forsyth Park's sidewalks will blaze with color as SCAD students, alumni and high school students create chalk masterpieces as part of the 36th annual Sidewalk Arts Festival.

"This heritage event celebrates the power of art to enliven our community," says SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace. "The festival has continually evolved from when we first put chalk to pavement on Bull Street sidewalks in 1981.

"As participation swelled, and more and more visitors and residents were pouring into the city, we knew it was time to move from Madison Square to Forsyth Park, the Arcadian heart of Savannah.

"Every year, I'm astounded by the vision and skill on display," she says. "SCAD Sidewalk Arts remains the year's most artful walk in the park."

The event is a competition, as well as an art exhibition.

"We have eight categories, including SCADSpirit, which features bee and acorn imagery inspired by the university's history, global growth and artistic culture," Wallace says. "We also have a category for Best of Show and for SCAD Landmarks, which celebrates SCAD's historic buildings.

"I love these categories for the vantage they afford, seeing the university through the eyes and hearts of our students ⦠The Landmarks category always surprises me as architectural details from around Savannah are rendered with new vibrancy," she says. "Additional categories are individual student, student group, graduate student, alumni and high school student."

The festival is a lure for prospective students.

"Prospective students fall in love with SCAD at this event - how could they not? - with the lush procession of art, education, community and civic pride engendered on this happy day," Wallace says. "Over the years, SCAD Sidewalk Arts has become a homecoming event for alumni, who plan their squares and designs together far in advance.

"The atmosphere is perfect for families, too," she says. "The event unites everyone through our elemental desire to fill the world with color."

To say the festival is popular is an understatement.

"We open up registration at the beginning of April, and for the past several years, all the spaces were claimed within a week," Wallace says. "That's more than 900 competing participants, with thousands more coming to watch it all gloriously unfold. We expect some 50,000 total guests for the festival, both first-time visitors and longtime fans."

There are several activities for visitors to enjoy.

"Kurdice Neal, a sound design alumnus, will be DJing the event," Wallace says. "The SCAD Drumline punctuates the day with beats while Art the Bee buzzes around.

"Later in the afternoon, a massively magical puppet parade promenades through Forsyth Park, led by the Second Line Jazz Band. Alumnus Sam Lasseter created the puppets based on traditional French stories and myths from our SCAD Lacoste campus."

And then there's food, including B's Cracklin' BBQ, Chick-fil-A, Leopold's Ice Cream, Roly Poly and Your Pie.

"At least half of the out-of-town visitors are prospective students, graduates, parents and other friends and family members here for the SCAD Family and Alumni Weekend, of which the Sidewalk Arts Festival is the centerpiece event," Wallace says.

"There's also a SCAD Alumni Atelier open studio, film screenings at Trustees Theater and more," she says. "It's a moveable feast of delights."

Sidewalk Arts is one of SCAD's most popular events.

"It's our oldest signature event, and quite dear to me," Wallace says.

"I remember reading about sidewalk chalk artists in 19th-century Europe, known as 'screevers,'" she says. "Our modern-day SCAD screevers elaborate on this beloved tradition."

The weather almost always cooperates for the festival.

"It seems that nearly every year, spring weather in Savannah puts on its best face for the Sidewalk Arts Festival, and we're hoping for more of the same," Wallace says. "⦠We monitor the forecasts all week to be well prepared, and if it ends up raining we may delay the start of the festival. We are resourceful at SCAD.

"Students already mix water with their chalk, creating a pastel effect," she says. "A little rain merely gives us more creative ideas."


What: SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 29

Where: Forsyth Park

Cost: Free



10 a.m. Chalk distribution begins

11 a.m. Drawing will begin

1 p.m. Judging begins

3 p.m. Judging concludes

3:30 p.m. Puppet parade

4 p.m. Results announced