Covering the Land of Lincoln

‘Paint the Street’ event adds color to downtown Springfield Illinois

After two years, the Springfield Art Association’s “Paint the Street” event returned to downtown Saturday, with professional and amateur painters grabbing brushes and making a little bit of art out of downtown streets.

Started in 2013 as a way to raise money for improvements to SAA’s studios on Fourth Street and to expand programs, the event has grown into a sort of street party with food, music and fun. People had the chance to pick out a 6-by-6 square on portions of Washington Street between Fourth and Seventh streets and use water-resistant Tempura paint to create works that stand out and amaze.

Dennis Selvaggio of Springfield works on his painting on Washington Street during Saturday's

Having an event such as this downtown also is a way for people such as Charlotte Kane, director of engagement and operations for SAA, to introduce people to the organization and get them involved in whatever kind of art they like.

“It’s a really diverse group of people that come out that we didn’t realize knew what the art association was,” Kane said. “It builds a really great sense of community and shows that people do want to get out and about. They want to be downtown (and) they want to be creative. It’s inspiring.”

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Plenty of people had the itch to be downtown, finally getting a chance to scratch it following two years in which the normal event had to be changed for a variety of reasons.

In 2020, COVID-19 forced the event to go remote, with those who signed up receiving supplies to paint their driveways. Last year, Kane and company had plans to return downtown, but Mother Nature got in the way.

“We kept getting rained out,” Kane said. “We tried to postpone it (and) change it to ‘Paint the Parking Lot’, (but) it just kept storming every time we got out to plan it.”

Participants enjoyed partly sunny skies Saturday as they grabbed their brushes and created anything — within good taste — that they could think of.

“What they choose to paint is entirely up to them,” said Tom George, second vice president of the SAA board. “Obviously, (there are) caveats of ‘Don’t be insensitive and unpleasant.’ This is supposed to be a family-friendly event.”

The palette of different creations varied from person to person, and those of all ages and experience levels had the opportunity to put their literal mark on downtown.

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One of those people was Brooke Underwood, a 12-year-old Glenwood Middle School student who put an image of Longg, a character from the TV show, “Miraculous: The Adventures of Ladybug and Cat Noir,” in her square. Brooke is autistic and finds that art allows her to express herself in a way that is freeing and engaging.

“If I make up something, I just draw it and it feels really real,” Brooke said. “I want to be a person who helps make anime in movies, so if I start trying to do other anime characters, I can get better and better and I can help make up some other characters.”

Jasiah Painter, 6, of Springfield gives his aunt, Gina Wehmhoff of Athens, a touch up as they work on their painting on Washington Street between Sixth and Seventh streets during Saturday's

Her mother, Sally, noted that Brooke attends SAA classes and camps and said that art gives her the ability to connect with people in her own, unique way.

“She’s great — this is her talent,” Sally said. “The art is how she expresses herself.”

That kind of expression was on full display Saturday, even for those for whom painting isn’t the first artistic option. George, for instance, is interested in ceramics, while Kane has an appreciation for performing and visual arts. However, the day and event proved to be a perfect celebration of all kinds of art from all kinds of people.

“It scares a lot of people to paint and I think a lot of people want to get out here and give it a try,” Kane said. “Even if you aren’t willing to come out and paint, a lot of people want to see what others have painted. We really try to hit both of those points — art education and actually being hands on (and) if you don’ t want to do that, at least appreciating art and realizing that art is for everyone.”

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