Published: October 9, 2020

This pandemic has led to more time spent outdoors this summer. Long walks have become common for most, especially families looking to get out to enjoy the outdoors and couples wanting to unwind at the end of a workday. With all the time spent outside, why not support local artists to help us engage with our community by connecting art with nature to make a visit to Centerra a little more interesting?

With that in mind, Centerra was thrilled to partner with two talented local artists to share an unexpected temporary outdoor sidewalk art experience located at the Centerra Marketplace and Chapungu Sculpture Park. The colorful hand-crafted installations were created in about six hours by sidewalk artists – Jennifer Chaparro and Jen Strona Tracy.

The talented artists took to the Centerra sidewalks, using two different techniques, to sketch their respective masterpieces based on individual themes allowing retail and park guests to enjoy and interact with their Installations.

Jennifer’s chalk and paint art is located at the Centerra Marketplace on Fall River Drive and features a unique three-dimensional piece celebrating back-to-school. While Jen’s drawing in Chapungu Sculpture Park is a tribute to nature and the master-planned community’s historic designation by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as Colorado’s first certified Community Wildlife Habitat.

Art jumping off the sidewalk

Jennifer’s street art at the Marketplace does not just appear three-dimensional to those who come across it, it is also interactive. Chalk art on the sidewalk dates back to the 16th century in Italy when artists who painted churches would take to the streets to recreate their masterpieces to make a living. Those early murals painted high up in the churches incorporated “tricks” that made the images appear different than they actually were drawn, also known as tromp l’oeil.  And just in the last 20 years or so artists have combined the illusion aspect and traditional chalk art into interactive street painting.

Interactive street art dates back to the 16th century in Italy when artists who painted churches would take to the streets to recreate their masterpieces to make a living. Those early street productions incorporated “tricks” that made the images appear different than they actually were drawn.

As the owner of Amazing Street Painting, Jennifer creates her images and uses computer programs to help skew the art into a one-point perspective. She explains her art is not actually three-dimensional, and people do not need special glasses to view it, it is an optical illusion that gives the viewer a sense of depth that is not actually there, also known as anamorphic art.

With the artistic magic in her chalk, Jennifer created a stack of schoolbooks featuring an apple and a pencil for this piece that allow Centerra visitors to sit or stand on, allowing people to interact with the art in a number of ways, from trying to bite or lean on the apple or climbing or resting on the stack of books.

“It’s fun to see what people come up with in new ways to interact with the art,” said Chaparro who spent six hours creating the school drawing. “We wanted to celebrate students and teachers going back to school, and I wanted it to be colorful. The big red apple certainly catch people’s attention!”

Jennifer has been capturing people’s attention with her art for 12 years professionally and 20 years altogether. A lifelong artist, Chaparro has a Bachelor of Arts in design from The University of California, Los Angeles and has been a graphic designer for 35 years. In 2004, she started experimenting with pastel chalks and attending street painting events. She picked up and honed her craft by observing other artists at events and festivals.

She started street painting as a fun activity to do with her two talented daughters when they lived in Florida. They all took to the art form quickly and she realized there was an opportunity with this to make a living doing something she loved. In 2009, she decided to take her graphic design skills and seize the opportunity to begin her street painting and chalk artist business. You can find her work on sidewalks throughout the U.S. or featured on window and sign displays at Trader Joe’s in Boulder.

Nature meets art

As for Jen, our second artist featured at Chapungu, she started her chalk art journey in 2015 at the Pastels on 5th St. annual fundraiser event in downtown Loveland. The event is for artists to showcase their colorful creations on the sidewalk and seeing other artists at work inspired Jen to pursue chalk art herself.

While her full-time job is a geologist project manager and contractor for the National Park Service, street art is a way for her to break away from work and flex her creative muscles.

For her Centerra installation, Jen was asked to highlight the natural habitat park walkers might encounter during their visit at Chapungu Sculpture Park, a unique natural botanic garden filled with African Zimbabwe stone sculptures.

“Chapungu Sculpture Park is an exciting space to create and share art. The sculptures and stories on display are fantastic,” she says. “Being able to walk through an outdoor art gallery and be in nature at the same time is special and unique. Chapungu offers great natural spaces and it was fun to capture and highlight some of that nature that is often the backdrop to the sculptures.”

Her creation for this installation showcases the natural grasses you spot in the garden alongside the animals including squirrels, birds, snakes and frogs. The colorful chalk art design pops right off the sidewalk as visitors come around the corner and encounter it before walking over the bridge that passes over the canal.

To create the piece, Jen spent a few hours on the computer sketching out her concept and then incurred roughly six hours drawing, shading and coloring on the sidewalk with her pastels.

Sidewalk spectacle

One of the unique aspects of street art is that bystanders who come along can watch the artists live at work. In their open-air studio, artists are able to engage with the community, bring their visions to life while answering questions or sharing information about their installation.

According to Jen, that is one of the best parts of doing community sidewalk art. She loves the people who pass by as she is working. She enjoys striking up a conversation and sharing stories with curious onlookers. People are often very interested in the work, and Jen gets ideas from people for future projects.

Professional 3D street artist, Chaparro initially found a live audience strange while she worked. But now she loves it and actually enjoys engaging and answering questions while people are watching. She views her work as performance art where she is the performer.

While the artists may have moved on, their temporary artwork remains. Take a moment to stop by Centerra to check it out for yourself!