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Butchers Hill Wants Baltimore to Embrace Chalk Night

Six-year-old Emily shows off the colors in her sidewalk drawing.

“Pink! Yellow!” Emily exclaims. “Blue, purple, pink!”

Her rainbow tie-dye dress matches the piles of chalk at her feet. Her bangs stick to her forehead on this muggy August evening.

With her mom’s help, she writes “first grader” on the sidewalk.

“I’m going into first grade,” she states.

Baltimore’s Butchers Hill community has a new addition to the murals and other street art scattered around the city: sidewalk chalk. 

Weekly, Wednesday nights are “chalk night” here in Baltimore’s Butchers Hill neighborhood, and this week’s theme celebrates the start of the new school year.

Local artist Martha Simons came up with the concept last year as a way to help neighbors get to know each other.

“I’ll hear people say, where do you live?” says Simons. “And they’ll say like two houses away, and they’ve both lived there for 10 years and have never met.”

Each week during the warmer months of the year, chalk night moves to a different address in the neighborhood, and people sign up to host. It doesn’t require much — just a clean sidewalk, neighbors that don’t mind the chalk art, and optional kid-appropriate snacks.

Simons says the kids are natural artists.

“They’re exuberant,” says Simons. “They come with so much energy.”

She points to the masterpieces at her feet.

“That one kind of got ruined somebody dropped some water on it, but look at that school bus, that’s pretty amazing too that was a first grader that drew that,” Simons points. “And this backpack you see the backpack over here, that’s a first grader.”

A bit further down on the sidewalk, 10-year-old Danny says he isn’t really into drawing.

“I like writing stuff like making hop-scotch,” says Danny. “Yeah, I’m not very good at drawing.”

Danny takes off down the sidewalk with a long light blue piece of chalk, drawing circles for his hop-scotch.

“Okay I’m going to make it into the street across the street,” Danny says while running down the sidewalk.

Simons says she’d like to expand chalk night to other neighborhoods in Baltimore. She dreams of the day that Baltimore is known as the “crazy East Coast city where everyone draws on the sidewalk on Wednesday nights.”