Event encourages passers-by to chalk responsibly

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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The sidewalks in Uptown Village near Pop Culture sported cheery chalk artwork and inspirational messages Tuesday, thanks to Michele Larsen, the Joy Team and the Junior Joy Team.

Larsen said the event's purpose is for people to create colorful chalk art and optimistic messages on the sidewalks in front of homes and businesses, and then to post photos of the artwork on the Chalk the Walks Facebook page.

More than 430 people in 34 states and four countries were "chalking the walks" Tuesday. That's more than last year's inaugural event. But she thinks next year people in all 50 states will be spreading joy with sidewalk chalk.

Umpqua Bank branches gave sidewalk chalk to anyone who walked into a branch and said, "I'm chalking the walk."

During the second annual Chalk the Walks event, kids, parents and young adults crouched, knelt and lay spread-eagle on the sidewalk as they chalked their creations.

"Kids make such beautiful, joyful art. It's hard to look at their drawings and not smile. It's a great way to get people thinking about positive messages," Larsen said.

Sydney Clark, 10, a student at St. Joseph Catholic School, drew a heart with the words "luv yourself" in the middle.

"Some people think they're not pretty or good enough, but it's what's on the inside that's important," Clark said.

Chloe Schafer, 5, laid on the sidewalk while her friend, Sophie Albright, 8, used chalk to draw around her. Sophie drew a purple shirt and blue skirt on the figure, and embellished the drawing by adding: "Your beautafol" next to the drawing.

Farther down the sidewalk, Jay Morton, 24, a 2006 graduate of Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, said when he saw on Facebook an event that spreads joy with sidewalk chalk, he thought, "That's perfect for me."

Several blocks over, neighbors in Hough were chalking the sidewalks on 22nd and Lincoln in front of the house where the gang shooting happened last week. Nate Cook, a Vancouver Fire Department paramedic, lives on the next block with his wife, Jasmine, and their children Noah, 12, and Isaiah, 11. He was the first to arrive on the scene that night, and Tuesday was busy chalking artwork on the sidewalk.

Cook, who grew up about a dozen blocks north, remembers gang activity when he was growing up. The chalk messages on the sidewalk in front of the house read "Love thy neighborhood," "heal" and "peace."