Sidewalk chalk art is viewed as a public form of expression, but like anything else, beauty - and sometimes legality - is in the eye of the beholder.
If that beholder happens to be a police officer who finds you with a piece of chalk in hand and your “art” on a public sidewalk, you might be in some trouble.
It’s one of those grey areas…
Albany Police spokesperson Steve Smith says there is no specific general city ordinance for using chalk on sidewalk.
Last month, Albany police confronted chalk artist Emily Hamilton Epstein as she worked on a mural along Quail Street in front of the Hudson River Coffee House. Epstein maintains the chalk art is NOT vandalism, since chalk is water-soluble and easily washed away by the rain.
Three years ago, Emily got into trouble in Philadelphia for drawing on the sidewalks of South Street. Emily was arrested. A judge later found her not guilty. She sued the city of Philadelphia and won. Emily chalked the incident up to experience. She enjoys working with chalk, and is taking her talents over to Albany’s Central Avenue next weekend for the "Drawing Up Central" sidewalk chalk art contest.
Molly Belmont is the marketing specialist for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District. She says the May 11th contest is part of Albany's annual Tulip Festival. APD's Steve Smith thinks art on the sidewalk beats unsightly and illegal graffiti any day. The city has renewed efforts in recent weeks to stamp out graffiti using a new app.
Chalk proponents suggest that if you or someone you know can create a masterpiece with a few spray cans in the dead of night, think what you might do with a box of multi-colored chalk in broad daylight – with the possibility of winning a prize.
Emily Epstein will be at "Drawing Up Central" - she hopes you will be too.