Sidewalks to get vibrant splash of color

Artists to decorate Torian Plum Plaza in the tradition of Michelangelo's apprentices

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What: Strada D'Arte (Street Painting) When: All day Saturday Where: Torian Plum Plaza Cost: Free Artists will decorate Torian Plum Plaza sidewalks in the tradition of Michelangelo's apprentices during Strada D'Arte

In the tradition of the Italian masters, area artists will take their inspiration to the Torian Plum Plaza sidewalks this weekend.

Starting Saturday morning, artists will use vibrant chalks to create artwork on concrete walkways for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council's second annual Strada D'Arte. Spectators will be able to watch the paintings take shape throughout the day and enjoy them during the days and weeks to come -- until rain washes them away.

"It's an immediate medium, and it's going to get washed away," artist Dona Steele said. "Even when it does rain, it makes them kind of cool."

During the Renaissance, painters such as Michelangelo, Botticelli and Raphael used apprentices to help paint their elaborate frescoes. Because apprentices were paid very little for their contributions to the artistic renditions of religion and daily life that cover Italy's renowned churches and chapels, they often put leftover fresco pigments to use on the streets for their own financial gain. The young painters would paint images similar to the frescos or make their own images on the street and put a hat out to collect coins from pedestrians who stopped to admire their work.

Almost 500 years after Michelangelo painted the ceiling on the Sistine Chapel and his apprentices likely re-created pieces of it on the streets of Rome, the second annual Strada D'Arte will pay homage to painter Robert Dieckhoff, who makes bright, surreal images of regional landscapes. Dieckhoff will re-create his painting of Emerald Mountain as viewed from Woodchuck Hill. The image, his signature painting, is being used to market the Steamboat Wine Festival.

Dieckhoff said the re-creation of his painting will be identifiably similar, while allowing for "up to the moment creativity."

"Who knows what dog might walk through the painting on any given day," Dieckhoff said. "Chaos does create change."

And just as Raphael used to do, Dieckhoff said he would be relying on Steele for her artistic expertise to paint and manipulate a medium that is new to him. It is likely that many artists will be using helpers Saturday, to fill in large areas and grind pastels into powder and reconstitute them with water for painting.

"I don't think people realize how bright these street paintings can be," Steele said. Artists also can use dry chalk to embellish their paintings on top of the pastels.

As the artists near the completion of their street paintings Saturday, the wine festival's Toast of Steamboat, a tasting that features hundreds of wines and a bocce ball tournament, will be from 3 to 6 p.m. next to the painting area, and Art Cars will be on display. The Beaux Arts on the Mountain celebration will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For young, blossoming street-painters in the crowd, there will be a huge sidewalk area for children to express themselves just as the masters used to do, Steele said.

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