Two sand sculptors working on a sculpture on Siesta Key in sarasota florida
The Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Competition
artists working on chalk paintings in Venice Florida
The Sarasota Chalk Festival

Artists Canvas Sarasota County with Chalk, Sand

Master designers from across the globe will turn Sarasota County into their personal canvas when the Siesta Key Crystal Classic sand sculpting competition and Chalk Festival come to town.

July 17, 2021

Sarasota is known for its artsy flair, but two events this fall will go beyond the usual mediums to show off creative masterpieces. Just a few weeks apart, the Sarasota Chalk Festival and the Siesta Key Crystal Classic will give attendees a feast for the eyes with pieces created in chalk and sand. Here are the details.

Sarasota Chalk Festival

Chalk art of a giant shark at venice airport festival grounds in florida
Since 2010, the Sarasota Chalk Festival has featured the largest display of 3D pavement illusions in one location

A dazzling display of art is what you can expect at the Sarasota Chalk Festival. As the name implies, artists create sidewalk masterpieces out of chalk – or, as its website describes, it’s a “museum in motion.” Artists from around the globe make their way to Sarasota for their chalk creations.

After skipping the festival in 2020 due to the pandemic, it is happening again in 2021, making it the 15th installment of the Chalk Festival in the area, according to founder and executive director Denise Kowal. This year’s Sarasota Chalk Festival will take place over Halloween weekend, from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1.

That timing will make for some spirited festivities, as Kowal says. Attendees can dress up to celebrate Halloween if they want, and there will be what’s billed as the largest pumpkin carving contest of Sarasota. Of course, there also will be the sidewalk art creations as well as live music, vendors, and food trucks. The 3D sidewalk art encourages photo opps to share on your social media. Maybe you want to look like you’re being eaten by a larger-than-life shark, for example? You’ll find the art to help you create that scene.

The Chalk Festival attracts upwards of 30,000 people. Typically, artists begin to create their pavement art on Friday and continue throughout the weekend. Sunday tends to be the busiest day of the event. It’s easy to enjoy the international flair of the Chalk Festival and the creative process, Kowal says.

Admission: Tickets range from $10-$20 for adults, with $5 off for students. You can buy a four-day unlimited pass for $25. Veterans and kids aged 5 and under are free. Find more information on the event  festival website).

Parking: Free

Location: Venice Airport Festival Grounds – 675 Airport Avenue East, Venice, FL.

Avenue of Art in Honor of Sarasota’s Centennial

The organizers behind the Sarasota Chalk Festival have a bonus display of art this year but at a different location. With Sarasota County celebrating its 100th year in 2021, a display of sidewalk art depicting 120 various scenes in county history is ongoing in downtown Sarasota, Kowal says. Called the Avenue of Art, it was specifically created as a socially distanced event for sidewalk strolling. Created with removable paint, the art is made by professional artists as well as students and children. Each scene eventually will have a QR code to scan so you can learn more about the event shown, the artist, and the sponsor. The artwork is slated to be on display through September 30, Kowal says. The display may be expanded to include up to 350 squares of art. The artwork can be seen starting at the 500 block of S. Pineapple Avenue in Burns Square, downtown Sarasota. A donation of $10 ($5 for students) is recommended.

Find more information here.

Siesta Key Crystal Classic

Man standing in front of sand sculpture on siesta key beach
Competitors have 24 hours across a four day span to create these towering sand masterpieces

Chalk is just one unique medium used to make memorable art in Sarasota County. With 99% crystal quartz sand on Siesta Key Beach, it’s the perfect medium to create sand sculptures. That’s just what will happen at the Siesta Key Crystal Classic, taking place November 12 to 15, 2021.

The Crystal Classic did not take place in 2020, and organizers are eager for the 2021 event. The Siesta Key Crystal Classic attracts master sand sculptors from around the U.S. and the world, says event chair Ann Frescura.

Come to the Crystal Classic to watch the art in progress, listen to local and regional live musicians, get a bite to eat, or enjoy an expanded vendor lineup. On Saturday night, the sculptures are lighted up. “That adds a whole other artistic dimension,” Frescura says.

Siesta Key’s special sand has a unique brightness, whiteness, and softness that attract artists to participate, Frescura says. Meanwhile, attendees enjoy the world-renowned beachfront location and the sand creations. Like with the Chalk Festival, the Siesta Key Crystal Classic also has an international flavor.

Toward the end of the event, there’s an awards ceremony that includes People’s Choice and Amateur awards.

Tickets: $15 per day at the gate, $10 advance purchase for adults; $5 for children ages 5 to 17; $8 for military and seniors; $30 four-day pass. Find more information on the event website.

Parking: Parking is available near the event, or $40 to $60 reserved parking passes are available online. Sarasota County Area Transit has public transportation options available, including an on-demand rideshare service. The Siesta Key Breeze Trolley offers free service seven days a week. 

Accessibility: Beach wheelchairs will be free to rent at the advanced purchase tickets check-in kiosk. Find an event map here