PLEASANTON -- For a day in May, people will be encouraged to mark up streets in downtown Pleasanton -- albeit with chalk and for a good cause.

The Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council is hosting its first Big Draw, a communitywide celebration of the arts that features street chalk art, painted pianos, dancing, improv, music and arts and crafts work for sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 11.

The proceeds for the event benefit the council's Arts in Schools Grant program that is expanding its reach from awarding grants for art-related shows and events for teachers and their classes in the Pleasanton district to providing art specialists in the classroom, said Jill Vellinger, president of the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council.

"We are trying to fill the gap and hoping to make this an annual or biannual event," said Vellinger. "A lot of communities are doing this, and hopefully people will see the value of the arts." The Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council, with cooperation from the city, spent the past year planning the event to not only raise funds for its grant program but to also expose the arts to a wider audience.

To attract a bigger audience, the council planned its biggest event, which includes free admission and a touch of everything arts-related. People are encouraged to play real pianos that are being painted by the middle schools in town. The pianos will be available for play downtown beginning May 3.


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"Part of the thing with art is people think they have to buy tickets or it's stuffy," Vellinger said." People also view it as static, so we tried to develop an event that was not stuffy or boring. We just want people to experience all different types of art.

The event also features four different ways to experience chalk art. Professional chalk artist will begin creating 20-by-8.5-foot works of art on May 10 and completing them May 11. There is also a street chalk art contest for artists who will design either a 4-by-4-foot piece or two-foot-square works and have them judged by KKIQ disc jockey Faith Alpher.

Novices and amateurs can also create their own 2-foot-square works just in time for Mother's Day. The cost for a 2-by-2 canvas is $20 and includes a box of chocolate. People can also participate in creating a community mural for $5 a person or $15 per family.

In addition to the chalk art experience, participants can also see break-dancing performances, improv from the city's teen Creatures of Impulse group and have a chance to make glass butterflies.

There will also be live musical performances, face painting, an arts and craft sale, live art demonstrations and a chance to meet and hear published authors. The event will take place mainly on Division Street and Railroad Avenue in downtown Pleasanton.

"Everything about the event is to celebrate the arts and get people to interact with art in an up-close way," Vellinger said.

For more information on the Big Draw event, visit www.the-big-draw.com. For more information on the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council, visit www.pleasantonarts.org.

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