With colorful chalk, creating art, community and business opportunity

Natalie Flor Negron creates a mural titled “Ancient Roots” for the Philadelphia Chalk Festival outside the Philadelphia Brewing Company in Kensington. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Natalie Flor Negron creates a mural titled “Ancient Roots” for the Philadelphia Chalk Festival outside the Philadelphia Brewing Company in Kensington. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

As COVID-19 cases surged and more restaurant and business restrictions were expected to be announced Monday by the city, residents in Fishtown and East Kensington had something to celebrate: the first annual Philadelphia Chalk Festival.

The event enlisted 14 artists to create chalk murals on the sidewalk in front of local businesses, offering residents a temporary art show as they walked through the neighborhoods.

Rushawn Stanley, who creates under the name Scum Lizard, fashioned his art piece near The Monkey Club, a local bar. He was also one of the event’s organizers, and said he planned the Chalk Festival to be a win for businesses, artists, and the community during the pandemic.

Rushawn Stanley creates “Tricky Roads” outside the Monkey Club. Stanley and friend April Rose are the founders of the Philadelphia Chalk Festival. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

“People can come visit your business, and you can get foot traffic through takeout or whatever,” he said. “The artists will get money that are out of work due to COVID-19. And then people have something they can look forward to while being outside and being socially distant.”

Monkey Club co-owner Dennis Kirby said the event was “good for the neighborhood.”

“Stuff like this is awesome,” Kirby said. “Everybody’s hurting right now. So things like this will help everything, I think. It’s going to be weird Monday, though. Sounds like we’re going to lock down again, right?”

Sam Levson creates a mural of Black historic figures Francis Harper and Franny Lou Hammer at Franny Lou’s cafe in East Kensington. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

On Monday, Philadelphia officials are expected to announce new restrictions to mitigate the recent surge of COVID-19 cases. The city reported 1,100 new cases on Friday, continuing a trend of record-breaking single-day increases.

Artist Niasyu creates “Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” at the Coral Street Arts House as part of the first Philadelphia Chalk Festival. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The new restrictions are expected to begin on Nov. 20 and end on Jan. 1 and will include a ban on indoor dining and closure of movie theaters, gyms and indoor exercise classes.

Saturday afternoon, longtime area resident Brian Phillips was out with his wife and young daughter Harper, checking out a colorful, stream-of-conscious piece by artist Cory Kram in front of Martha, a bar on York Street.

Cory Kram creates a mural outside the bar/restaurant Martha for the first Philadelphia Chalk Festival. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Phillips said the Chalk Festival was one of the little joys for the community during the pandemic.

“There’s more people out walking and enjoying being outside in a safe, kind of socially distanced way,” he said, “and doing our best to get exercise and get the kids out … with all the challenges that are happening.”

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