News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Painting in the streets: Via Colori is bring this unique art style to the ‘Burg
BY ANNE ELDER
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Michael Kirby didn’t start street painting as a hobby or to impress his friends. As a 19-year-old living in Florence, Italy, he began replicating Renaissance paintings on the pavement to survive and pay bills.
“Most of the time I was just doing it for tips because this was before it was really popular,” he said. “We were just considered street performers.”
“I saw people drawing on the pavements for tips [and] I thought, ‘I could do that, too.”
But Kirby, who then wanted to learn how to paint and needed a job, had always been an artist. He had been drawing his whole life and painted through high school with “acrylics, oils…whatever I could get my hands on.”
Now, nearly 20 years later, Kirby will join an estimated 100 fellow artists in downtown Fredericksburg for the third annual Via Colori Festival this September. Last year, approximately 80 artists participated in the event, according to Sue Henderson, director of the Fredericksburg Via Colori.
On Wednesday, July 25, Kirby will teach a Via Tutori workshop at Celebrate Virginia, where he will share tips and techniques of 3–D street painting.
“It seems rather daunting for someone who’s never done it before,” said Kirby, who lives in Baltimore. “Try to get rid of that fear that you might have. Experiment—there is no pressure or anything to do well. Fool around and enjoy the experience.”
Henderson said that the workshop is for people of all skill levels, with no experience necessary.
“We understand that a large number of the participants are at varying levels of skills—there are people who haven’t even picked up a piece of chalk,” Henderson said. “This is meant to be something that all levels can do.”
The proceeds from this year’s festival will benefit the Community Health Center of the Rappahannock Region. The center, which opened in 2007, provides affordable health care to everyone, including underinsured and uninsured patients. Each artist’s square is sponsored by a business, organization or entity, and all proceeds from the sponsorships after expenses will help defray lab, medications and other similar fees for the center’s uninsured patients.
Additionally, proceeds will support local arts education programs.
Kirby, who specializes in 3–D street art, is this year’s featured artist. His background of building sets for theatrical and opera productions taught him “forced perspective” and how “to create space in a concentrated area,” which has greatly inspired his work.
“I’m more interested in producing things that people can interact with,” Kirby said. His most recent project was creating a set for a production of “Madame Butterfly” in Florida.
Fredericksburg artist Carol Iglesias will join Kirby at the festival as this year’s signature artist.
Though Iglesias is accustomed to painting with pastels, last year’s Via Colori workshops taught her how to acclimate to painting on a larger canvas—the largest artist square at the festival is 10 feet by 10 feet.
“To have the freedom of a whole street, that you can make it as big as you want, that’s exciting—that’s the really fun part,” Iglesias said. “I would never be able to do a 10-by-10 pastel and frame it…it’s possible but not practical.”
Another element of street painting to which Iglesias had to adapt to was the street’s texture. In her studio, she uses paper with a texture similar to sandpaper—comparatively, asphalt can be described only as “really bumpy.”
“It’s like a gigantic deeply textured surface, that’s the challenge,” she said. “For an artist, challenges are good; they help you grow.”
Iglesias, who has been painting in the area for eight years, was notified that she had been selected as the signature artist shortly before departing for an artist-in-residence position at l’Atelier d’Artiste de Grande Vigne in Dinan, France.
During her stay in France, Iglesias painted the piece that she plans to replicate on a larger scale on during Via Colori.
“I had a bunch of images I could’ve used, but this image is special in many ways,” she said. “It’s kind of typical of my work; I love to do buildings. I’m excited to re-create it.”
This is Iglesias’ second time participating in the festival, though she observed the artists working at the first Fredericksburg event in 2010. After she watched all the artists on the street, Iglesias knew she wanted to participate.
“It’s art just for the sake of making art, just for the pure joy of doing it,” she said.
The first year she participated, she found the Via Tutori workshops beneficial, especially since she was unfamiliar with working on such a large scale.
“If you get a little bit of instruction, it takes the frustration away,” she said. “It makes the learning curve faster and easier.”
Iglesias encouraged people of all skill levels to participate in the workshops and the festival.
“Anybody is welcome to come out and enjoy the experience,” she said. “I think there’s a hidden artist in everybody.”
WANT TO GO?
The Via Tutori workshops are sponsored by the Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority and the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center. The workshops are free and open to the public.
TECHNIQUES AND TIPS WITH MICHAEL KIRBY
When: July 25 at 6 p.m.
Where: Celebrate Virginia
Info: For details or to RSVP for the workshop, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“LESSONS LEARNED” ARTIST ROUNDTABLE, led by Via Colori Fredericksburg Director Sue Henderson
When: Aug. 30 at 6 p.m.
Where: Artful Dimensions
Info: Email email@example.com with questions or to RSVP to the event.
When: Sept. 21–23
Where: Riverside Park and the streets of downtown Fredericksburg.
Note: Any adult can sign up to be a Via Colori artist. Register online at ViaColori.com. Click on “Fredericksburg” and then follow the links to “Artist Sign-up.”
Info: Contact Nicholas Candela, artist chairman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne Elder is a recent graduate of the University of Mary Washington and a freelance writer.