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 share the same weekend in 2019

Streets brimming in a cornucopia of color. A pristine beachfront interrupted by towering sculptures made from sugary white sand.

These views are available only once a year during two world-renowned local art festivals – The Sarasota Chalk Festival and The Siesta Key Crystal Classic. In 2019, visitors will be treated to both outdoor art parties on the same November weekend!

From November 15 to 18, internationally acclaimed artists will descend on Sarasota County to create masterpieces from two mediums synonymous with beach vacations: chalk and sand.

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

“Hailed as the most important pavement art event in the world,” it’s no surprise CNN once named the Sarasota Chalk Festival one of the best in its class, made apparent by the pavement filling up quickly with curious onlookers.

From start to finish, you can witness the largest gathering of prominent pavement artists perform using the road surface as a canvas to develop oversized masterpieces in chalk.

Since 2010, the festival has featured the largest display of 3D pavement illusions in one location, “more than any other place or any other time in the history of the art form.” From the right perspective, these chalk landscapes jump off the asphalt as a 3D picture comes into focus.

Viewers are encouraged to become part of the art, walking right up against – even on top of – these intricate diagrams as if they are stepping t into the imaginary scene itself! Bring a camera because you won’t be able to resist snapping a picture of your feet hanging 100 stories high, an exotic animal lurking behind you or any other experience these artists manifest in just a few hundred feet of blacktop. Friends and family will be shocked when they scroll past this #MySarasota experience!

If you go: The 2019 International Chalk Festival will celebrate the theme Garden of Wonders: "a tribute to the marvels of the natural world and the human imagination."

Admission: Free for children 12 and under, and veterans during Monday, Nov. 18. Tickets range from $10-$15 for adults, $5-$10 for students, or purchase a 4-day unlimited pass for $25 (more info available on the festival website).

Parking: FREE

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

Can’t Miss: The largest anamorphic (3D) pavement painting in the world – the Megalodon Shark will be restored and redesigned during the event! You can even join the restoration team for an extra $75 ticket (pre-festival event happening Nov. 8-14).

Other Events:

  • Garden of Wonder Maze Experience (pre-festival, Nov. 9-14) – join creative team of artists in developing interactive maze for the festival. Tickets are $75 per person/session and include: 4-day unlimited pass, materials, chalk festival book, invitation to Tuesday, Nov. 19 after party, photo, and t-shirt.
  • Young and Young at Heart (Nov. 15-18) – the public participation area of the festival, open for all ages to try chalk art and create impromptu mini scribbles or masterpieces on pavement  and chalk walls. 
  • Kurt Wenner Illusion Environment (Nov. 15-18) – an original invention that uses perspective geometry to visually distort real people and objects as they appears to grow and shrink in size.
  • The Pavement Music Festival – features national and local bands from opening to closing. More info at event’s Facebook Page.
  • Human Maze – fun, new exhibit for 2019!

Questions: Check the festival’s FAQ page.

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

Once you are "chalk" full, head west to the Siesta Key beachfront for museum-worthy sculptures carved in a mere 24 hours. Artists pack the island and chisel away at its famous 99 percent quartz crystal sand, hence the name "Crystal" Classic. Come all four days to see these towering structures come to life as intricate details become visible with each sweep of their tools.

The long weekend of festivities include an all-day viewing Friday through Monday, live entertainment, Learning Curve tents with twice-daily sand sculpting lessons, and a Vendor Village of 70 food and retail stands.

Save some of your loose change from shopping for voting on the Peoples’ Choice award. One quarter equals one vote, one dollar equals four, and change can be provided on the sand if necessary.

If you go: Artists will routinely branch away from their competition piece to participate in wildly entertaining Quick Sand competitions judged by the audience.

Tickets: $10 per day at the gate, $8 advance purchase for adults; $5 for children ages 5 to 17; $8 for military and seniors; $30 multi day pass. To purchase tickets or a VIP parking pass, visit the festival website here.

Parking: FREE at Siesta Beach, but is limited and typically fills by 11 a.m. according to the event website ($29 to $59 reserved parking passes are available online). Sarasota County Area Transit provides service to the island on Route 11 from The Pavilion Mall in nearby Gulf Gate, and for those staying or parked elsewhere on the island, the Siesta Key Breeze Trolly offers free service seven days a week. 

Accessibility: The festival offers beach wheelchairs for all four days on the sidewalk before entering the sand at the public beach.

Can’t Miss: A night viewing is available for 2019 as sculptures will be illuminated under colorful lights on Saturday and Sunday.

Other Events:

  • Amateur Contest (Nov. 16) ­– Amateur sculptors can put their skills to the test in two different levels of competition. Two Master Sculptors will pick the winner directly after the competition.
  • Awards Ceremony (Nov. 17) – Sunday afternoon the 2019 winning teams and individual artists will be announced in a ceremony on the beach.
  • People’s Choice Voting (Nov. 18) – Cast your ballots in the form of quarters for the People’s Choice award on the festival’s final day.