The Arts

Picture perfect weather greets Main Street chalk art festival

In the weeks leading up to the annual Mosaic Street Painting Festival on Main Street, East End Arts creative director Wendy Weiss hoped for precisely the kind of day Sunday turned out to be — bright sunshine with a nice breeze and temperatures in the 60s and low 70s.

“You can’t hope for better than this,” she said Sunday.

Ms. Weiss said that weather is “50% of the stress” leading up to the annual chalk art festival held each Memorial Day weekend.

The festival was inspired by artists in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy, where an annual street painting competition draws chalk artists from all over the world.

Ms. Weiss said that nearly three decades ago, her predecessors at East End Arts thought, “why not bring that to Riverhead?

“And after 27 years — as you can see — it’s just getting bigger and bigger.”

Ms. Weiss was thrilled with Sunday’s turnout.

“It’s amazing. There’s just so many people of all different ages having fun, some serious artists who are doing amazing things you could never imagine could happen in chalk, lots of smiles [and] lots of vendors. Just a really fun, fun day.”

She said the festival is a favorite for residents and visitors alike.

“People keep coming down and telling me they love Riverhead like this and they wish this happened more than once a year.”

She gave a shoutout to some of her “serious chalk artists,” many of whom return year after year: Ryan, Melissa, Zooey, Chrissy, Summer Paul, Jack, C.C. and Greta among others.

Ms. Weiss said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was held virtually.

“It was really important to the team here to keep the spirit of that alive,” she said. “Chalk was sent out to people who participated, and they did [mosaics] in their driveways or on their sidewalks or on the streets in front of their houses. There was still a festival, it’s just that everybody stayed home and submitted [mosaics] through videos and photos.”

At the end of the day, the beauty is fleeting: the colorful chalk art mosaics are no match for traffic and weather.

“They go pretty fast,” Ms. Weiss said. “When the street reopens and the cars come back you can actually see clouds of chalk in the beginning, which is kind of fun. Then the rain will take away the rest.”