Street art comes alive at the Sarasota Chalk Festival

Go to any major tourist city, particularly a city with a car-free, pedestrian-friendly center, and you’ll likely find street artists honing their craft, using just chalk as their medium and pavement as their canvas. Within hours, these street painters are able to create everything from spot-on renderings of the Mona Lisa to 3-D chasms that look so realistic you fear walking too close to the painting’s edge. Street painting is always a treat to come across. But, like all street art, chalk art is not organized. So it’s not an activity you’ll typically find on your weekend arts calendar. That is, unless you’re in Sarasota.

This week, the south Florida city of Sarasota hosts the Sarasota Chalk Festival, an annual event during which the world’s best chalk artists transform South Pineapple Avenue into an open air performance art space. In its fourth year, the Chalk Festival will focus on “Pavement Art Through the Ages,” paying homage to the art’s centuries-old Italian roots. In particular, the festival will showcase historical street painting, giving artists the opportunity to depict on pavement hundreds of years of Italian culture. The festival will also feature a 24-hour chalk painting competition modeled after the Grazie di Curtatone Madonnari, the very first street painting festival that took place in Mantua, Italy, in 1973. Madonnari, by the way, is the Italian term for “street painter.”

And then, there’s the 3-D art. Legendary chalk painter Kurt Wenner, an American artist who helped popularize anamorphic, or 3-D, street art, will be on hand to demonstrate his technique for creating three-dimensional chalk figures on a horizontal plane. In all, approximately 100 artists will decorate downtown Sarasota with dozens of mind-blowing street paintings that will all fade away shortly after the festival ends.

The Sarasota Chalk Festival runs through November 7.

Mikhail Baryshnikov to headline Sarasota’s Ringling International Arts Festival

When Mikhail Baryshnikov graces a stage, the whole world stops to stare. This year, all eyes will be on Sarasota, Florida, when Baryshnikov and others headling the Ringling International Arts Festival.

The five-day showcase of music, theater and dance presents 45 performances of 11 stage productions, which run from October 13-17 at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla. In addition to the premieres by Philip Glass and the Forman Brothers, the Festival boasts the debut of Hurricane, a new play written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Nilo Cruz and Solos with Mikhail Baryshnikov & David Neumann featuring a world premiere by choreographer Susan Marshall. Those productions all debut at the Festival’s Night of Premieres on Wednesday, October 13. They then join the roster of seven additional productions of dance, theater, and music all presented in repertoire on three stages through Sunday, October 14.

Art lovers can make a trip out of this, thanks to the InterContinental’s Hotel Indigo, which just launched a package for the festival. The “Sarasota Arts Package” at Hotel Indigo includes:

  • Overnight accommodations
  • Two cocktails at the hotel’s H20 Bistro
  • In-room gift: Sarasota Architecture Book, chronicling the city’s history as Florida’s “Cultural Coast”
  • Two member-for-a-day passes to RIAF, which include access to the award-winning Ringling Art Museum as well as all RIAF 360 events (e.g., jazz sunsets, private gallery tours, Family FunFest, etc.).

Rates start at $153/night. Package valid October 13 – 17, 2010.

Orbitz introduces ‘Open Beach Guarantee’

Orbitz is trying to offer travelers peace of mind this summer through an Open Beach Guarantee. The guarantee offers a full refund on your hotel stay if nearby beaches are closed because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

To get this deal, you must book a stay at a participating hotel through Orbitz, with travel between now and July 31, 2010. If a government agency closes a beach within 20 miles of the hotel during your reservation, you can get a full refund. But the refund is only good for unused nights of your vacation, so you will have to cancel your stay or leave early to get this deal.

The Open Beach Guarantee does not apply to vacation packages, only to hotels booked as a standalone reservation.

The list of participating hotels includes Florida Gulf Coast destinations such as Panama City Beach, Sarasota and Fort Myers.

[Image credit: Flickr user thecrazyfilmgirl]

America’s Top 10 Beaches: Coopers Beach in Southampton, NY takes the top spot in 2010

Coopers Beach, Southampton’s stretch of white sand on New York’s Long Island, has been named 2010’s best beach in the America by Dr. Stephen Leatherman.

“New York has world-class beaches, but I don’t think a lot of people in the United States know about them,” said Stephen Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research.

Leatherman cited the fine sand, availability of parking and amenities, and Southampton’s long history as a beach community in his announcement.

Leatherman, aka “Dr. Beach,” announced his Top 10 picks for this year just in time for Memorial Day weekend, as has been his tradition since 1991. The coastal scientist says he uses more than 50 criteria — including water quality, temperature, sand quality, cleanliness, safety and environmental management.

Dr. Beach listed two Florida beaches this year — Siesta Key Beach and Cape Florida State Park — despite the oil spill still leaking in the Gulf of Mexico.

He told the Associated Press that Cape Florida State Park, near Key Biscayne, “doesn’t get the wave activity” that would encourage tar balls to wash ashore. As for Siesta Key, in Sarasota, Leatherman said he studied currents and does not believe the oil will reach the shores in Southwest Florida.

%Gallery-93850%Here are Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Beaches in America for 2010:

  • 1. Coopers Beach in Southampton, New York
  • 2. Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida
  • 3. Coronado Beach in San Diego, California
  • 4. Cape Hatteras on North Carolina’s Outer Banks
  • 5. Main Beach in East Hampton, New York
  • 6. Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
  • 7. Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  • 8. Beachwalker Park in Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  • 9. Hamoa Beach in Maui, Hawaii
  • 10. Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, Florida