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Give Grow Transform

San Francisco Peninsula Youth and Adults Share Reflections of Beauty

Contributed by Leif Erickson, Executive Director of Youth Community Service

2013 Street Art Festival 1

Chalk creation by teen artist sponsored by Shinnyo-en Foundation

Each year during the last weekend in August, Shinnyo-en Foundation partner Youth Community Service invites children, youth and adults to share a vision of community and beauty on a street in Palo Alto, California.

During the Palo Alto Art Festival, one street is set aside for the vibrant color of centuries-old Italian Street Painting, where artists create art directly on the pavement with vivid chalks. Youth Community Service sponsors this beautiful event, in partnership with MLA Productions of Scotts Valley, CA. Observers can enjoy watching the art come to life before their eyes over the weekend. Once completed, the artwork is photographed, and then washed away Sunday night until another year comes again.

This past August 24th and 25th, youth volunteers participated by creating art themselves or by assisting the younger artists, and another group of teen volunteers made all the artists feel special with attentive service of water, snacks and sandwiches to keep their creative energies strong during the weekend.

One end of the street was set aside for very young children, who filled the pavement with a tapestry of bright colors and emerging imaginations. The middle of the block was dedicated to young artists who ranged in ages from 12 to 25. Shaded by umbrellas, they worked in pairs or alone to share their visions of lively and reflective scenes. We were honored this year that the Foundation sponsored one of the teen artists who re-created a peaceful scene of families relaxing in a park.

Professional adult artists filled the other end of the block with artwork up to 12 feet x 12 feet. During the weekend, some art took on startling three-dimensional depth. Subjects of the chalk paintings ranged from nature scenes to indigenous figures and from contemporary to spiritual images.

The surrounding Art Festival was lively, with bands playing and crowds walking through, but a hush fell over the crowd when spectators entered our street where the art was being created before their eyes, by one intent artist after another – from grandparents down to tiny tots.

It was a privilege to share with our young people this peaceful experience – just for a weekend – of an intergenerational community aligned together in creativity, beauty, and service.


Youth Community Service (YCS) is a Palo Alto based nonprofit organization that offers programs to engage youth in service activities that promote awareness of the needs of their communities and that develop positive emotional and behavioral health. YCS also offers training for educators to implement high-quality service-learning programs in schools and they actively collaborate with community organizations in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.