“Two days of magic and creativity:” Inaugural Hoopers Island Chalk Arts Festival makes bold mark, brings awareness to mental health

HOOPERS ISLAND, Md.- “They don’t realize the beauty of an island in Dorchester County. They kind of stop at the Blackwater Refuge or the beautiful Harriet Tubman Museum. If they go just a couple more miles down, they’re going to see so much more art and culture,” The Bungalow Owner Kelly Ellis-Neal said.

The power of chalk brought new meaning to art in Dorchester County, as the inaugural Hoopers Island Chalk Arts Festival made a bold statement.

The event included many local vendors, food, and live entertainment sponsored by the Dorchester Center for the Arts and the Bungalow. “What’s interesting about this as a festival is that people are not coming just seeing things done on the wall, they’re coming and watching two days of magic and creativity happening like in front of their eyes,” Dorchester Center for the Arts Community Arts Coordinator Melissa Cooperman said. 

6 artists from across the country used the medium to make colorful masterpieces.

We caught up with Lori Antoinette from Los Angeles, California who started the group Chalk Mafia. She says festivals like this one are growing in popularity and originated in Europe. “It’s supposed to be just a temporary art form. It’s actually a performance art so it’s about coming to see the artist do it,” Antoinette said.

“Like when people walk by and they feel happy, that’s the story. That’s the only story it is. Does this make you feel good? I’ve done my job.”

Resident Artist Ed Krell was the hands behind ‘The Mural’ on the grounds of the Bungalow on Hoppers Island.

He says the event was also held to bring awareness to mental health issues, as he lost his close friend 81 to that battle. “He battled with a lot of things and people thought he was just out there. It was really because he was suffering from mental illness, and no one knew how to reach him,” Krell.

“Just like a balloon on a string. If you let go of that balloon, you can’t grab it back. Thats how we are as humans. You have to have somebody having a hold of you.”

Yet the work doesn’t stop at this festival, as those we spoke with say art has a purpose that’s bigger than yourself. “We’re using art to create awareness and a platform so that we can go take art to people who need it so they can experience it,” Krell said.

Organizers say the artwork made over the weekend will be auctioned off in January at the Dorchester Center of the Arts.

We’re told the goal is to also bring the event back bigger and better next year.

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