'Time to pass the torch': Street Painting Festival changes ownership - what does it mean?

LAKE WORTH BEACH — Officially, Maryanne Webber has been executive director of the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival since 2016.

But, in actuality, Webber has helped run the downtown bash since it was founded in 1995, turning the annual chalk fest into one of the biggest of its kind in the world and providing the city its marquee event.

© Greg Lovett, The Palm Beach Post The Lake Worth Street Painting Festival in Lake Worth Beach, Florida on February 22, 2020. [GREG LOVETT/palmbeachpost.com]

On Monday, Lake Worth Beach officals announced that the city will take over management of the festival beginning in 2022. 

More on the festival: What brings the Lake Worth Beach Street Painting Festival to life: Chalk, passion and Maryanne Webber

More: Meet the local artist who will bring ’The Matrix’ to life at Lake Worth Beach Street Painting Festival

More: Graffiti, street art themes of ‘Stairwell Visuals’ show this weekend in Delray Beach

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Webber said the changeover was made after the non-profit — Street Painting Festival Inc. — that oversaw the event was voluntarily dissolved by its board of directors in April.

After nearly three decades, Webber said, it was “time to pass the torch.”

“I’m sad and it’s difficult,” said Webber, 63. “But the time comes to change and this is it.”

The city’s first street festival in 1995 was a humble affair. Around 5,000 people showed up for the two-day event and artists were limited to a small section of downtown.

But its popularity — admission has always been free — snowballed. In recent years, the festival has drawn an estimated 100,000 visitors to watch 600 artists work on an asphalt canvas that stretches from Dixie Highway to Federal Highway and Lucerne Avenue to Lake Avenue.

© Photo by Jorge Mliian Maryanne Webber oversaw the Lake Worth Beach Street Painting Festival grow from 5,000 visitors in its first year to more around 100,000.

As it has everything else, COVID-19 disrupted the street festival, which takes place the last weekend of February.

The 2020 event made it just under the wire before the pandemic shut down public gatherings, but the 2021 festival was cancelled. In its place, a virtual festival was held.

“I woke one morning after the virtual event and I just said, ‘I think it’s time,'” Webber said.

The status of next year’s festival has not been determined, according to a city news release.

“City staff are continuing to move forward with plans for a 2022 festival but are prepared to alter or cancel the event based on the CDC COVID-19 guidance closer to the time,” according to the release.

Webber has broached the subject of stepping down before so when she announced her decision to the non-profit’s board of directors in April, it was initially met with restraint..

“They knew I was serious this time,” she said.

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Among the last acts by Webber and the board was the creation of a scholarship for Lake Worth High students that will be financed by the non-profit’s remaining funds.

Leaving the festival after so many years is “personal and emotional” but Webber said she’s fulfilled knowing “we’ve inspired an entire generation” while bringing “art to life” to thousands of visitors.

“The original mission of the festival has been achieved,” she said.

jmilian@pbpost.com

@caneswatch

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: ‘Time to pass the torch’: Street Painting Festival changes ownership – what does it mean?

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