Bella Strada brings art to the streets - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Bella Strada brings art to the streets

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Posted: Thursday, April 8, 2010 3:55 pm | Updated: 3:22 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

 By the time Julie Kirk-Purcell completes her enormous painting of a mythical desert cat, she’ll have an aching back, sore knees and practically no fingerprints.

The Chino, Calif., painter is one of about 70 artists who will create paintings on the streets and sidewalks — as spectators watch — for Bella Strada, an Italian-styled street-painting festival going on Saturday and Sunday at the Gilbert shopping center.

By the time Julie Kirk-Purcell completes her enormous painting of a mythical desert cat, she’ll have an aching back, sore knees and practically no fingerprints.

A professional artist creating a 20-foot-by-35-foot image in the middle of the street at SanTan Village, Kirk-Purcell will spend most of four days crawling around on the asphalt, bent over her pastels and blending colors with her bare fingertips.

“Inevitibly people will feel pity and ask you ‘Can I get you anything?’ It’s not so bad,” she says.

The Chino, Calif., painter is one of about 70 artists who will create paintings on the streets and sidewalks — as spectators watch — for Bella Strada, an Italian-styled street-painting festival going on Saturday and Sunday at the Gilbert shopping center.

The event is a fundraiser for Save the Family, the Mesa-based nonprofit that teaches families the skills to transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency. In addition to the free street-painting festival, Bella Strada will feature a $10-per-head kids’ zone and food tasting; all the money raised goes to the charity, which assisted 300 Arizona families in 2009.

Kirk-Purcell, 44, travels the world creating images like the one she’ll be painting in Gilbert. She sketches her drawing out in blue pastel, sometimes filling in large portions first with tempera paint to help the pastels adhere to the pavement and cover more ground. The entire effect is achieved with pastels, a damp rag and a long white rope.

“I tape one end down to my perspective point, and I can stretch it in any direction from there; it helps me get the scale and perspective a little more correct,” she says.

For Bella Strada, she’s painting a three-dimensional desert canyon with a castle, a flying dragon and a giant winged mountain lion lapping water from a pool.

“I try not to take many breaks. I like to be out here as much as possible for people stopping by to watch. When you think about it, most artists work privately in a studio. Not a lot of people get to see art being created. It’s kind of the cool part about being a street artist,” she says.

Kirk-Purcell will paint nearly ’round the clock on Saturday and Sunday, aiming to be finished by Sunday afternooon.

“People always ask if your painting is going to be washed away, and ‘Won’t you be upset if it’s washed away?’ ” says the artist, who also teaches at Irvine Valley College. “But the thing about street artists — it’s not about the finished product for us. It’s kind of nice to be able to try something new and know it’s not going to be around forever. Of course, sometimes you create something really beautiful, and you just hope you got good pictures.”

contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

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