For Doug Young, the Utah Foster Care Chalk Art Festival is a family affair. Over the past decade, he and three of his kids have created chalk art for the festival on a somewhat annual basis, while his wife Jennifer cheered the team on. The festival means more to him than just spending the day leaving masterpieces on The Gateway streets with his family though. The street painting festival also honors foster care families, and children, like those his family welcomes to their home.
This year Salt Lake Magazine’s Tastemakers event, which will also be at The Gateway on June 13, 14, is donating a portion of proceeds from the event to Utah Foster Care and Tastemakers goers can also enjoy the Chalk Art Festival.
“We don’t like to say we’re foster parents; we’re a foster family,” says Young, who began caring for foster children about 14 years ago. “It’s brought our biological children way closer together as they’ve pitched in to help care for all these little ones who have been a huge plus in our lives.”
The Chalk Art Festival will be held June 14–16, 2019 at The Gateway in Salt Lake City. More than 130 artists are expected, including Julie Kirk Purcell, known for her 3D work featuring Utah landscapes and native animals.
The Young family, who has cared for about a dozen foster children over the years, typically creates a Disney-themed work of art at the festival. “It’s wonderful seeing the change that can be made in the children in care, and sometimes the changes made in the bioparents (biological parents),” Young says. “That just makes it all worth it.” Most recently, the Youngs cared for a 3-year-old girl named Lyla for about a year and a half. The family adopted Lyla last June.
Jessica Grover, who grew up in a foster care family, will create art at the festival for the eighth time this year. She plans to make a chalk image of Winnie the Pooh rafting down a stream with Piglet and Tigger, while their friends wave to them from a bridge. “It just kind of reminded me of my family,” Grover says. “Me and my siblings would go on adventures everyday, and my life would not be the same if it weren’t for them being in our home.”
Grover, now 23, was 13 years old when her parents decided to welcome foster children to their home. “We had an empty bedroom in our house, and it just felt very empty. My parents felt that it was wrong that it was empty and that our family wasn’t complete,” she says.
Grover says her family brought home an 18-month-old girl whose parents struggled with addiction and were unable to care for her. Soon after, she says the family learned that the girl’s biological mother was pregnant with a second child, who soon became Grover’s second foster sibling. Not long after, the family adopted both of the girls.
One of Grover’s favorite art pieces that she didn’t create at the festival is an oil painting she made of her family’s living room, titled “Homes Need Children.” “It just kind of feels empty, but at the same time, I tried to make it playful, as if there needs to be kids there,” says Grover, who relates the artwork to her her family’s story. “We didn’t do it because we needed more kids; we felt our home wasn’t complete.”
Along with the festival, you can find Grover’s art on Instagram @grover_life.
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