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Fourteenth Annual Chalk Art Festival Helps Draw Crowds for Utah Foster Care

Salt Lake City—The Gateway’s street has become a canvas for artists young and old, and a platform for a message of hope—at least until it rains.

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The Utah Foster Care Chalk Art Festival brought some color to the Gateway Friday, as artists started work on the creations judged Saturday. The 14th annual event featured 116 different entries from youth and adults.

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Faith Spencer, eastern region retention service specialist for Utah Foster Care, said the festival is popular among those in the art and foster care communities, as well as the larger community. The murals on cement canvases, depicting everything from saber-tooth tigers to characters from popular movies, provide a jumping-off point for spreading awareness of the need for foster families in addition to showcasing local artistry.

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“I love to see people wall to wall coming throughout the day. It’s cool to watch, on Friday, the process of the art—but on Saturday, when you really see it taking shape, there’s just people everywhere, and there’s usually just two lines of people walking back and forth. And they’re engaging with the artist, they’re talking back and forth, and it also helps us to get the message out about the need for good homes for kids in foster care. It’s an enjoyable community event, but it really furthers our mission and our purpose,” Spencer said.

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Artists vie for positions far in advance of the festival, and are often placed on waiting lists for opening in future events, said Debbie Hofhines, development director for Utah Foster Care.

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“We have people walk through this, today, and they’ll say ‘I want to do this next year.’ We have a waiting list already going for artists to do it next year. And now we’ve just opened it up to vendors and food trucks,” Hofhines said. “At the last minute, we were getting people asking if they could join our event, and we had to turn them away because we don’t have room. We’re just getting bigger and bigger.”

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Information stations throughout the festival are manned by volunteers and staff members of Utah Foster Care to answer questions, and foster parents to talk about their real-life experiences. On Saturday afternoon, as the chalk art creations are being judged and awarded, the organization will also honor five Foster Fathers of the Year, one from each region in the state.

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Spencer said the awards recognize foster fathers who are making a difference in children’s lives, as well as help others connect with their stories. The foster father honored in her region, for example, was nominated by the child’s biological mother who’d had her children removed.

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“She said she couldn’t believe how he has helped them escape from the trap of drug addiction and abuse. They’re amazing stories, and those stories help people to hear. [People say] ‘Maybe I’m not perfect, but maybe I don’t have to be a perfect parent. I just have to be something,'” she said. “There’s so many different ways for people to get involved. They can find out more about foster care, adoption, about becoming a volunteer, about being a generous donor. There’s so many ways to help kids in care, no matter what your circumstance or situation.”

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The Utah Foster Care Chalk Art Festival runs through 9 p.m. Saturday and is free to the public.