Chalk and chocolate and pigs that fly

Last year's winner by Imad Obegi

The 14th annual Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival is tomorrow on Shattuck Avenue in north Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Although professional artists participate in the festival, the organizers encourage anyone who wants to try their hand, young and old, at chalk art on the sidewalk. There’s no fee to try; artists’ chalk is for sale at the festival. The art will be judged at 4 p.m., with a first prize award of $250 and runner up prizes of $25.

In addition to the chalk art, the festival features a range of chocolate experiences: tastings, sales of chocolate items and even a chocolate foot massage (no: I have no idea what this is either).

Last year’s chalk art winner, Imad Obegi, described his work “Swine Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (above):


The idea of the “Swine Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” came to me when I was having fun with the thought that the day has come when pigs can fly – “Swine Flu”. A week or so later…during a meeting, the phrase “Swine Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” came to mind. The more I thought about it, the funnier it sounded. The fact that the world went crazy over the possibility of a swine flu epidemic and the fact that the H1N1 virus strain is a combination of the bird flu virus and the swine flu virus needed to be conveyed as a comical image. I added the dots to represent viruses shedding from the pig’s body but not to be so explicit as to “downer” the humor of it. The pig is happily flying, oblivious to the fact that he is targeted to be terminated despite the fact that it wasn’t all his fault. At first I created an image of a flying pig with Jack Nicholson looking up at the sky all crazy-eyed. Then I thought that Jack looks so different now and that kids won’t get the joke. I had a lot of fun during the day in creating the artwork…some people asked, “Why is the pig happy?” One kid responded best in saying, “If I was a pig that could fly, I would be very happy.”