Chalk Art at the Procession of the Species

by Ned Hayes for OLY ARTS

Nearly every inch of the route for the Procession of the Species is covered with vibrant chalk art. The Procession team hands out chalk to children from ages 0 to 99: Everyone is invited to create their own art on the route. Yet this is not just a momentary diversion. Chalk art is a core part of the participatory experience of the Procession. Procession visionary Eli Sterling emphasizes that the Procession is not a spectator sport, it’s a day of participation. Everyone who attends and takes part in the Procession, including those who draw chalk art, is a participant.

Volunteer Steve Shanewise, a former wildlife biologist, coordinates the chalk distribution. “The Procession is so much more than the sum of its parts,” says Shanewise. “Just like sunlight refracting through raindrops creates a rainbow of it all, this vision of unifying people to the very awareness of life…has become a splendor for all to see.”

Shanewise delivers over 7,000 pieces of chalk art in collaboration with youth who are performing community service. The youth working with Shanewise are moved in a positive direction by chalk distribution: “The experience of doing something totally free and beneficial that makes so many people immensely happy simply overwhelms them,” says Shanewise. “It makes them feel proud to give back.”

The colored chalk is free, but participants are invited to donate to the Olympia Food Bank. Last year, the crew collected over $1,000 in donations. Chalk is distributed half an hour before the Procession begins. An optimal place to get chalk, according to Shanewise, is at the beginning or end of the route. In the past, the chalk was purchased and delivered by the Olympia Police Department, and the department still supports the delivery to and use of chalk art in appropriate places on the street route, where it can be washed away by rain in the days after the Procession.

What: chalk art

Where: Procession of the Species,
from Jefferson St. and Legion Way to Water St. and Capitol Way, Olympia

When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29

How much: free

Learn more: 360-705-1087 | Procession

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