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Westmoreland

The Chalking Dad: North Huntingdon man's art evolves

| Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, 11:00 p.m.
Erik Greenawalt and a baseball card of Roberto Clemente that he chalked in 2016.
Craig Houdeshell
Erik Greenawalt and a baseball card of Roberto Clemente that he chalked in 2016.
Erik Greenawalt with a portrait of his daughters, Jenna and Jaycie.
Erik Greenawalt with a portrait of his daughters, Jenna and Jaycie.
The Greenawalt’s Christmas card featured a photo of Jenna and Jaycie standing in front of their father’s chalk rendering of Kevin McAllister from the movie 'Home Alone.'
The Greenawalt’s Christmas card featured a photo of Jenna and Jaycie standing in front of their father’s chalk rendering of Kevin McAllister from the movie 'Home Alone.'
Erik Greenawalt and daughter Jaycie pose with one of his early renderings in 2007. Greenawalt, 40, of North Huntingdon began pursing chalk art after Jaycie asked him to draw her a princess when she was about 4.
Erik Greenawalt and daughter Jaycie pose with one of his early renderings in 2007. Greenawalt, 40, of North Huntingdon began pursing chalk art after Jaycie asked him to draw her a princess when she was about 4.
Jenna Greenawalt looks over her father's Erik's chalk rendering of Arnold Palmer.
Jenna Greenawalt looks over her father's Erik's chalk rendering of Arnold Palmer.

Chalk this one up to fatherhood.

At least that's what Erik Greenawalt, aka the Chalking Dad, points to when discussing his evolution as a chalk artist.

Greenawalt, 40, of North Huntingdon was working nights as a newspaper copy editor and page designer and spending the days with his daughters Jaycie, now 14, and Jenna, 11, in 2007. One day Jaycie, then 4, pointed to her sidewalk chalk and asked Greenawalt to draw her a princess.

“We were just looking for things to do and she had some Crayola sidewalk chalk,” Greenawalt said.

Like good fathers everywhere, he did what he could to engage the tot.

The rest, as they say, is history — or more accurately his story.

Greenawalt was hooked. He kept on chalking. He continued to work nights but went back to school, earned his MBA at the University of Pittsburgh, got a day job as an accountant, passed the CPA exam and built a career in corporate finance with Giant Eagle. In the interim, he cut his creativity loose on the sidewalk and began to consider art.

“I think my last art class was as a freshman at Southmoreland High School,” Greenawalt said.

He had no formal training in art, but he was ready to experiment and learn.

Eventually Greenawalt moved from Crayola sidewalk chalk to soft fine art pastels.

His art blossomed.

“It made more brilliant, bolder pictures,” he said.

A cross-section of those pictures is online at www.thechalkingdad.com.

Last weekend, Greenawalt traveled to Lake Worth, Fla., where he was a featured artist, a standout among some 600 street artists who turn the pavement of Lake Worth into a panoply of colorful images for one weekend every winter.

A native of Southwestern Pennsylvania who grew up almost next door to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Greenawalt created a visage of Fred Rogers for the festival to mark the 50th anniversary of the first airing of the famous PBS children's television show.

He chalked a baseball card of Roberto Clemente at the same show in 2016.

Last Christmas, the Greenawalt's holiday card featured a photo of Jenna and Jaycie standing in front of their father's chalk rendering, mimicking the visage he had created of a young Macaulay Culkin grasping his cheeks in that famous expression from the film “Home Alone.” The prior year the girls were featured with a chalk image of Clark Griswold, aka Chevy Chase, in his “Christmas Vacation” film incarnation.

Greenawalt enjoys working outside and talking with spectators. Sometimes he teams up with other artists or even his girls.

Although he's worked at street art festivals up and down the East Coast and in the Midwest and Canada — he's been featured at everything from store grand openings to weddings — festivals close to home are close to his heart.

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art will feature Greenawalt's work April 14 when it comes together with Seton Hill University, the Westmoreland Cultural Trust and DV8 Coffee House to celebrate a day long “Art Happens” event with outdoor artwork scattered throughout Greensburg.

Greenawalt is scheduled to create a chalk rendering of George Washington just outside the museum that day.

“We were really excited to see his proposal and his work. We're really looking forward to it,” said Catena Bergevin, deputy director and director of advancement at the museum.

But look quickly if you want to catch Greenawalt's art. The rain washes it away.

And that's fine with the artist.

“If I mess up anything, it's gone, washed away. For me, this is therapy for having to deal with spreadsheets all day. This way, I get to use both sides of my brain. I think my wife would say I'm a lot happier when I do this,” Greenawalt said.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib

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