For two springs in a row, the concrete path outside 60 Verona Place was devoid of color. The usual sounds of children’s laughter and shouts as they scurried about, turning the concrete into a canvas for their imagination in the form of freshly colored chalk art, went silent. The world shut down.
Three years ago, the pandemic forced the cancellation of the library’s annual Children’s Sidewalk Chalk Show, which has been a tradition in the village for over 20 years, with hundreds of kids and their families beautifying the concrete outside the Henry Waldinger Memorial Library.
The event came back to life last spring. Children who had been cooped up at home for months at a time and isolated from one another finally reclaimed the concrete path to play — although even then, caution about the virus lingered. Some kids still wore masks, and some parents warily kept their social distance.
Among the many losses amid the pandemic, at a time when public spaces became potential locuses of disease, one of the most worrisome for children, experts noted, was the missed opportunities for play. Research in child development has found that extended periods of “play deprivation” are linked to behavioral issues including poor communication, diminished problem-solving and social skills, heightened aggression, depression, and slowed brain development.
But now, it seems children are making up for lost socialization and playtime, and once again last Saturday, they were back to playing on their own terms: running around freely, and expressing themselves artistically by showing off their drawing skills with chalk.
Nearly 50 young artists came to draw during the two-hour event, filling in their intricate and creative illustrations with any and all colors they could find.
“We have the entire space in front of our main entrance to the library and the entire space in front of the village hall, which we’re very lucky to have,” said Jaclyn Kunz, the library’s children’s director. “We have a lot of really nice outdoor space, so the kids can come and set up to draw all along the sidewalk.”
All manner of works of art were created, ranging from traditional spring images — flowers, rainbows and gardens — to movie and television show characters, like Deadpool.
“We’re just excited that they can come and decorate any section that they want and draw as big as they want,” Kunz said. “They tend to do all different things on the sidewalk. We had a lot of superheroes, and we had a lot of spring-type stuff like rainbows and flowers and things like that. It’s just a really nice outdoor day.”
This year’s art show was especially nice, she said, because kids and families shuffled in and out throughout the two hours, so the sidewalks weren’t too crowded at any one time.
The morning was a bit cloudy, but eventually the sun came out, adding to the budding artists’ enjoyment of the day.
“We’re always happy to see the kids out there,” Kunz said, “and we think they did a beautiful job with their artwork this year.”