For the past 25 years, the stunning artworks found at the Pasadena Chalk Festival have kept attendees’ eyes focused squarely on the sidewalks below them. But this year, the world’s largest street art event will send both the visitors’ and artists’ minds soaring to the skies, as it embraces Pasadena’s recent designation as “the city of art and science.”   

That honorific inspired Chalk Fest co-founders Tom Coston and Patricia Hurley of the Light Bringer arts collective to ask a team of astronomers, astrophysicists and space program scientists from JPL and Caltech to come together and create a scientifically accurate solar system mural. The idea builds off the city of Pasadena’s commitment to promoting science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) activities that highlight the significant correlation between art and science and help the public discover the world of space exploration.

But in an intriguing coincidence, the fest hits town at the same time as both the Aliencon convention of alien experts and sci-fi fans, and COSPAR, a conference of internationally renowned scientists. Designed to appeal to young scientists and future space explorers, the JPL/Caltech mural is expected to be a conversation starter that piques young people’s interest in both space and science.

“The whole city is getting all excited about these scientists coming to Pasadena and the fact that we have JPL and Caltech here, making it all a celebration of art and science,” says Hurley. “We decided it would be different for a team of scientists who happen to be artistic to come together for a mural about art and science. We’ve had them together a couple times already in sketching sessions and it’s really exciting to watch them create what they’re going to draw.

“This is all their first time doing a mural together, but one artist who’s been with us for five years and actually works at JPL will lead them,” adds Hurley. “What’s interesting is that we know the artists from Pasadena and all over Southern California but we don’t know what they do in their outside life, and now we do with this team and they’re applying their special knowledge.”

The fest is expected to attract 600 chalk artists and tens of thousands of admirers to the streets around the Paseo Colorado in the heart of Pasadena. While many favorite features such as the Chalk of Fame celebrity-tribute section outside the Arclight movie theater, the Animation  Alley section featuring animation art and animators and the Sunday Pasadena Police Classic Car Show along Colorado Boulevard are all returning, there are a couple of new attractions.

The School of Rock will present sets of classic-rock cover tunes performed by its middle school-aged students throughout the two-day festival, while sponsor Otter Pops plans to hand out free popsicles to everyone in attendance via its Beach Bungalow. And even though the fest has already won the Guinness World Record for largest outdoor art festival in 2010, Hurley believes this year could be even more of a fun madhouse.

“With thousands of space alien fans spilling out from the Pasadena Convention Center and into the Paseo just across the street, this truly is a perfect blend of art and science,” laughs Hurley. “This is going to be one truly interesting weekend for everyone in the universe.”  


The 26th Annual Pasadena Chalk Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Paseo, 300 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Admission is free. Visit pasadenachalkfestival.com.