Neighborhoods are getting colorful sidewalk makeovers as students create chalk art to lift spirits during the pandemic.
The coronavirus might be keeping people from participating in most of their normal activities, but it also has created a new interest in walking as residents find ways to social distance but still get some fresh air.
Along with more walkers, communities are seeing a surge of creativity as teenagers adorn sidewalks with colorful chalk drawings and positive phrases. Two local teens — Kate Greenhalgh, an eighth-grader at Innovation Montessori Ocoee, and Maddie Harbilas, a senior at Freedom High School — are taking their artistic abilities outside and sharing their talents with others.
KATE GREENHALGH, 14
Kate started drawing her sidewalk art the week after spring break.
“We decided we needed time outside, and I was bored,” she said. “I thought, ‘I can draw Rick and Morty,’ and people seemed to really like it. And then I drew a few things, and then I asked if anyone wanted me to draw something specific. And then people started requesting.”
Kate’s favorite show is the anime “My Hero Academia,” so she has taken an interest in drawing its characters. Her chalk work took on a new look as people started requesting images.
When a nurse’s husband asked her draw something outside their house as a thank-you to the professional, she created a bouquet of flowers. She has had several requests from neighbors wanting her to draw their dogs.
“I know it’s just like a weird time for everyone right now, so if I could do anything to make people smile, then I’ll do it,” Kate said. “Even if I don’t feel like doing anything, I’ll still do it sometimes. I don’t want to let anyone down.”
Kate’s artwork typically stays within the sidewalk squares so her drawings look complete. And she plans to keep creating her chalk art until life gets back to normal, she said.
She loves being able to share her drawings with everyone who walks down the sidewalk.
“It doesn’t bother me too much when it washes away, because I know it’s something I can do (again),” Kate said.
When she isn’t chalking up the sidewalks with images of SpongeBob SquarePants, Winnie the Pooh characters, superheroes and the neighborhood pets, Kate is dabbling in her first loves — sketching and painting. Her catalog of painted characters runs the gamut from horror films to anime. She decorates shoes and clothing with her artwork, too.
Kate plans to pursue the art path when she attends Windermere High School in the fall.
She is the daughter of Rod and Leandra Greenhalgh, of Winter Garden. Her chalk art can be viewed on Instagram at ryangreen_530.
MADDIE HARBILAS, 18
Folks walking around Winter Garden’s Cypress Reserve neighborhood on Easter weekend were treated to a fun activity thanks to Maddie Harbilas. She created a game in chalk along the sidewalk, and directions were given to help the Easter Bunny find his carrot — hop, spin around twice and walk the line.
“I’ve never done chalk before,” Maddie said. “I’ve been into painting and sketching before, and I just decided, ‘I’ve seen some videos of people doing interactive chalk art’ … and I’m going to go do it. It really took off.
“It gives me something to do, and I love doing it,” she said. “I love taking my dog out at night and having people come up to me.”
The stay-at-home order has been stressful for many people, including Maddie, who is in her senior year at Freedom High School, and she said the chalk art has had a positive effect on her.
“I have little kids come up to me and hug me because they saw their favorite character,” she said.
She started the chalk art project with images of Pixar characters, and then the requests from children and parents started, so she branched out to create pictures of characters such as Mickey Mouse, Moana and Minions. Some of the pictures include quotes and phrases.
She also has received requests to create a chalk drawing for a child’s birthday and to paint a mural in someone’s house.
During a sunny stretch of weather, Maddie had amassed nearly a dozen drawings down the sidewalk. And in one rainy day, her concrete canvas was washed clean and ready for new artwork.
Maddie, who said she comes from a family of artists, works mainly in paint and is new to chalk art. A majority of her paintings carry an environmental theme and include nature and endangered species.
“I can see myself doing this in college,” said Maddie, who is attending Florida Gulf Coast University in the fall. “There are a lot of farmers markets and festivals and (I will) get my work out there and try to sell some stuff.”
Her artistic flair branches out to poetry and short-story writing, as well.
Maddie is the daughter of Carrie Harbilas, of Winter Garden, and Bill Harbilas, of Orlando. Her artwork can be viewed on Jomatt Loop in the Cypress Reserve neighborhood and on Instagram at maddieharbilas. To request a painting or chalk drawing, text Maddie at (407) 489-7292.