In its second year, Midtown’s Chalk Art Festival almost doubles participation, number of drawings

architecture

Even a bee was fooled by Samantha Wicht’s chalk art portrait of flowers Sunday at Midtown Crossing.

“Oh my gosh, that bee just landed on one of your flowers,” a woman said, pointing at Wicht’s floral design. “You confused him.”

Wicht, a senior art major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was one of 48 artists working on 38 drawings during the second annual Chalk Art Festival at Midtown Crossing. It was her first time at the two-day event that began Saturday and included live music.

“I just really like plants and stuff because I’ve been thinking about climate change,” Wicht said. “I wanted to do something about how nature holds the earth together.”

Denver artists Randy Segura, left, and Michael Rieger, have worked with the Chalk Arts Festival of Midtown during each of the first two years of the event. They both help organize the Denver Chalk Arts Festival now in its 18th year. KEVIN COLE/THE WORLD-HERALD

Organizers again brought in Michael Rieger and Randy Segura from the Denver Chalk Art Festival, now in its 17th year, to help run the event. Rieger and Segura predicted that the Omaha festival will only continue to grow.

“We have 48 artists this year, working on 38 designs,” Rieger said. “That’s about double last year, when we had 26 (artists) and 21 (drawings). That’s a really good start.”

Rieger produced a drawing that he called “The Night Watchman.” A few years ago, a neighbor was throwing out an old couch and Rieger took a photo of his now-deceased dog, Simon, who had immediately hopped on the couch and appeared to be guarding the neighborhood.

“The Night Watchman,” by Michael Rieger of Denver.MICHAEL RIEGER

“I was telling Simon, ‘Don’t move. Let me get that picture,’ ” Rieger said. “I like to (draw) this one at festivals. For a little while, Simon is back with me.”

Segura, who works painting murals, created a three-dimensional piece, “White Tiger.” He tried to give it the appearance of a big cat clawing its way up from below the sidewalk.

Segura likes what he’s seen from the first two years of the Omaha event. He looks forward to many returns.

“It’s been really wonderful,” he said. “I like getting in on the new events because you really get to see it grow.”

He may keep running into three Kiewit Middle School students. Emma Schmidt, 14, Alice Liang, 13, and Grace Peng, 13, demonstrated their artistic skills with a series of characters from TV and movies, including Sporky from “Toy Story 4,” Mickey Mouse and Homer Simpson.

Emma participated solo last year and got two friends to join her this time around. She enjoys “the creativity” of the event.

Three students from Kiewit Middle School work on a series of characters from TV and movies. The girls are, from left, Grace Peng, 13, Alice Lieng, 13, and Emma Schmidt, 14, of Omaha.KEVIN COLE/THE WORLD-HERALD

For Grace, who spoke while smoothing out the yellow on Homer’s stomach, the work was about her fascination with drawing. She also likes the way “people can have fun while looking at the piece.”

For Alice, the festival’s draw — no pun intended — was being able to hang out with her friends. Recreating characters such as “SpongeBob SquarePants” is just a lot of fun, she said.

“It’s freeing to express yourself through art,” Alice said. “There’s not a wrong way of doing things.”Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

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After growing up in South Omaha, Laura Gray and her husband, Joe, traveled from their home in Peoria, Illinois, for the event. Laura is the artist and Joe does the heavy lifting.

Laura’s drawing, “Away, Away to Djuma,” attracted lots of viewers. The picture is of a boy and girl riding on the back of a cheetah on their way to the Djuma Game Reserve in South Africa.

“They are running from a nightmare of something springing out of the closet,” she said. “They’re on a cheetah because that’s the fastest animal and my personal favorite.”

Tammy Jones, left, helps son Hayden, 14, with his drawing, titled “Beauty Underwater,” at the Chalk Art Festival at Midtown Crossing.KEVIN COLE/THE WORLD-HERALD

A wildlife theme was also on the mind of Hayden Jones, 14, of Omaha, who worked on “Beauty Underwater,” with his mom, Tammy. The drawing of a turtle and ocean vegetation were Hayden’s. His mom helped add color.

“I wanted to show people something they don’t usually get to see, especially here in Omaha,” Hayden said. “It’s actually been a lot of fun.”

And a lot of work, his mother said. They began drawing at 8:30 a.m. Friday and were hoping to finish by 2 p.m. Sunday.

“I’ve been shocked at how long it takes,” Tammy Jones said. “But time flies. You just kind of get in a zone. You get lost in it.”Close

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Oliver Henderson plays first base waiting for some action. Without a left hand Henderson is able to adapt to the world of baseball.

Libby DiBiase runs in a 14-pound vest during a workout at CrossFit Kinesis in Gretna. This Omaha police officer uses CrossFit to keep in shape for her unpredictable job.

Jeff Strufing enjoys being able to help people during group classes at Kosama. Despite his cancer diagnosis, Strufing hasn’t let it change his lifestyle. The 46-year-old business owner, husband and father of two still works part-time as a paramedic and teaches weekly classes at three gyms. He’s done it all while undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

Margie Irfan practices bicep curls during her workout at Life Time Fitness. Iftan entered the world of bodybuilding when she was 46 years old. The Omaha woman has lost 10 percent of her body fat while maintaining the same weight — and she’s got the toned muscles to prove it.

Jack Mallett practices his tennis skills at Miracle Hill tennis courts. After deciding to quit drinking Mallett, 92, made tennis his addiction. 

Michelle Graft runs on the Wabash Trace in Council Bluffs to train for her portion of the MS Run the US relay. Gaft who has MS uses running to keep the symptoms at bay.

Mary Manhart works out at the Downtown YMCA four times a week. She sees the people at the gym as her extended family.

Hadeel Haider started to exercise after being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and she fell in love with Zumba. Haider now teaches Zumba class at the the Maple Street YMCA. 

Nancy Nygren works out at least three times a week to help keep off more than 65 pounds that she lost a decade ago. “She’s the perfect example of somebody who has lost a significant amount of weight and has done it the right way,” said Jennifer Yee, who leads Nygren’s boot camp class and is also an instructor in Creighton University’s exercise science program.

Tom Carney does a workout during kickboxing class. Carney used to work out so he could eat whatever he wanted. Now he understands diet is just as important as exercise. 

Rik Zortman runs the name of children who have died of cancer. He has ran the name of more than 250 children since his son’s death in 2009.

Katie Chipman, a 12-year-old gymnast with juvenile arthritis, practices at Airborne Academy. Chipman works to hard to compete and only misses practices if her symptoms are too severe.

Joe Reisdorff and Dan Masters grew up in the same town, attending the same church were never close until Reisdorff needed a new kidney and Masters was a match.

Still recovering from a heart transplant, Rick Ganem wouldn’t be able to make it to his daughter Sarah’s wedding. So she brought the ceremony to his hospital room.

Since starting her weight-loss journey, Keasha Hawkins-Moore is closing in on dropping half of her starting weight — 500 pounds. During that journey, she’s battled cancer, lost loved ones and strengthened her faith.

Leota “Lee” Brown suffered a stroke and two days later, the 98-year-old was back to her spunky self at home in an assisted-living facility. She’s required no therapy since the stroke.

Harley Swanek had been living with an undetected heart condition for the first seven months of her life. It caused her to become unresponsive for more than 30 minutes, leading to a brain injury. Harley’s back home and relearning all of her milestones.

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