Photograph by Samuel Heller
Instantly, the aroma of chocolate welcomes every passerby as they walk through Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto on August 25. The chocolate rum gelato, Oreo shakes, chocolate ganache cupcakes, chocolate covered pancetta, chocolate mole taco, and even the chocolate-scented hand massage cream all create an atmosphere that feels like heaven.
As everybody indulges in the sweet chocolate, walks through the craft booths, and listens to the live music, one cannot miss the chalk art covering the streets. The Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival combines one of life’s most delicious foods and a creative form of art for all ages. Lisa Bullwinkel, the event producer, has over 30 years of experience, which includes producing some of Berkeley’s most popular events like the Solano Stroll, the Berkeley Kite Festival, and the 4th of July celebration at the Marina.
During the festival anyone can create chalk art and enter the chalk art competition for free. Everybody is included, from Bullwinkel’s interns with learning disabilities, young kids creating art with their parents, to professional artists drawing intricate portraits. Bullwinkel’s goal in all of her events is to feature art, something she deeply cares about and wants to promote. She said, “My thrill from all of this [The Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival] is to give people the opportunity to make art in a public place when they might not have ever thought they could do that. It just blows me away with how much talent there is in this town.”
Among the talent is Meghan Kane, an artist at the festival, who drew a portal into the African landscape based on her experience in the Peace Corps. While sketching elephants and giraffes, Kane said, “I love doing artwork and there are very few ways to do art in public and talk about why it is important.” She continued that this festival “brings people out of their shells to share two things that I love: chocolate and art.”
Mia Teller, a Berkeley High School (BHS) alumna, said that The Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival is a “really fun way to bring generations together and for local businesses to interact with the public.” Teller was drawing advertisement logos for different companies and added, “I am here for the art.”
Making art in a public place is extremely important for Bullwinkel. She said that people are always so proud of their work; they stand by it, show it off, and the chalk art will last for others to admire.
Not only is there chocolate, chalk art, and a community vibe, but there are many craft booths selling intricate jewelry, tie-dyed cloth, and homemade crafts. Lita Gabriel, an enthusiastic artist and owner of her two creative arts companies, said she is out at the festival to see people smile. Surrounded by a vast array of hand painted candles, ornaments, bottles, and trinkets, Gabriel explained that she wants to meet and connect with all sorts of people. “I want to go everywhere [at The Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival], take my time, and do it all,” she said.
Most of the businesses in the Gourmet Ghetto are extremely well-known. From The Cheeseboard, Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen, to Books Inc., the Gourmet Ghetto houses some of Berkeley’s most popular companies. However, small organizations like Gabriel’s depend on festivals like The Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival to sell art, network, and promote their company. Heather Hensley, the executive director of North Berkeley’s Shattuck Avenue and Vine Street, emphasized that this festival is a “unique way to get people to discover businesses” that do not get a lot of attention.
Chocolatier Ellen Arden at Endorfin Foods mentioned that the festival is a way to show a love of chocolate, a universal feeling for most people, and Arden wants to inspire others with her local, ethically-minded chocolate. Arden’s chocolate are gluten free, compostable, and organic. “Chocolate is not just a candy, it’s sacred,” she said.
At the end of the day, Bullwinkel strolls around Shattuck Avenue, photographs every piece of art and chooses winners for the competition. This process takes about three hours, a considerable amount of time after a long day facilitating the event, but Bullwinkel enunciated that “it’s delightful, really delightful that people can come make art together.” Even though Berkeley is full of strong opinions and wildly different people, this festival is a time for artists, families, business owners, and chocolatiers to unite. This quirky festival is one of Berkeley’s hidden gems that brings all types of people together over two things almost everybody can agree upon: chocolate and art.