Orange County Jewish Life caught up with Dr. Frank Lieberman, founder and executive director of FunWithChalk, a street painting festival that features performance art, arts and crafts booths, workshops, live music, strolling performers, live performances on stage and many other activities for the entire family. Now in its 13th year, the festival, which started in Mission Viejo, will be held July 14 and 15 in Rancho Santa Margarita. Since 1999, almost 200,000 visitors have experienced the wonder of this 400-year-old performance art. FunWithChalk has been honored by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003 and 2008.
How did FunWithChalk get started? In 1998 I went to Santa Barbara for Memorial Day weekend. There were hundreds of chalk squares on the Mission Santa Barbara parking lot. I learned that it was a chalk art festival where there was an amazing amount of talent creating art with chalk on asphalt. I realized that many kids have ADHD or other disabilities but express themselves through art. What an opportunity it could be to start a similar festival in Orange County!
How did you go about creating the festival? At first I met with resistance. There was a time when budgets for art programs and art education were being slashed. We fought negatives for a year and finally convinced the city government in Mission Viejo to develop the festival. I looked for a committee, and Norm (Rosenkranz) was one of the first to sign up. Now we always talk even before we go to the committee.
What is the goal of FunWithChalk?
FunWithChalk seeks to educate, entertain and positively affect the way both children and adults perceive and understand the arts and artists. The goal is to bring the focus on the arts and the necessity for arts education to the public, so that people can understand how important art is for children. We only wanted to meet our expenses in doing so.
How did the program evolve? The city of Mission Viejo allowed us to use the Norman Murray Community Center without charge and helped with the labor and logistics. The city didn’t ptovide much publicity at first but then began to include the festival in its mailings.
What is the history of this art form? Street painting started more than 400 years ago. Soldiers returning from war painted images in front of churches, and visitors were astonished. Twenty-five years ago Kathy Khoury saw the event in Italy and brought the concept to Santa Barbara. It is also held in Sarasota, San Diego and La Jolla. It’s a great outlet for artists, and it brings families and communities together.
How has the program expanded? We have provided scholarships for college-bound art students, funds for art materials and supplemental art programs in local school districts and assistance for programs such as Laura’s House and TACA (Talk about Curing Autism). There are various sponsorship levels. Now schools are holding their own festivals too.
What are some of this year’s highlights? We’ve moved the festival to Rancho Santa Margarita. We’re featuring the talent of Maestro Javier-Alvarez Palomar, a close friend and Laguna Beach street artist. He paints with his hands in oils, upside down, in 9 minutes to music. He creates pictures of celebrities like Jimi Hendrix and Elvis, and we auction them off.
There will be children’s workshops. One of our board members owns a preschool. Thousands of kids have gone through our workshops, and parents sit down and join them. There’s an area where kids donate and create their own street painting.
There are clowns and face painting for the kids. Artists come from everywhere, some from outside of Orange County. Many have other professions, but art is their love.
We’re also coordinating with the Relay for Life in Rancho Santa Margarita. That will help us to draw families who are participating in that event.
The 13th Annual FunWithChalk Street Painting Festival
July 14 and 15
10am to 4pm
Bell Tower Community Center
22232 El Paseo
Rancho Santa Margarita
Admission is Free
For more information, visit
or call (877) WECHALK.