Mookie Harris wins ‘People’s Choice’ award in Salt Lake City
By Geoff Liesik, Vernal Express and Uintah Basin Standard
July 5, 2011
Mookie Harris is only 17 years old but she spent part of the past month with aches and pains that typically trouble someone at least four times her age. The strain that brought on numbness in her fingers and stiffness in her back so intense that Harris said she wanted to “just lay down and not ever sit again” was all for a good cause though — to raise funds for the Utah Foster Care Foundation.
Harris, a bubbly Vernal teen who will serve as student body president when classes resume at Uintah High School in the fall, is one of the most popular young artists at the foundation’s annual Chalk Art Festival. She captured the People’s Choice Award again this year, her second such honor in the four years she’s been “chalking.”
“I actually still have chalk in between the crevices of my fingers and some on my legs,” Harris said five days after the June 17-18 Chalk Art Festival at The Gateway in Salt Lake City, where she used artist’s pastels to recreate a scene from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
“You meet lots of people,” Harris said about the event. “My favorite is the reactions of the little kids who see your work. It’s super fun.”
Each year for the past nine years crowds have milled up and down The Gateway’s main street every Father’s Day weekend, stopping to watch professionals and amateurs alike create vibrant pieces of temporary art. This year’s entries included everything from Japanese anime characters to George Washington crossing the Delaware to Dutch master Johannes Vermeer’s painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
Harris created original works for her festival pieces in 2008 and 2009. A challenging academic load, coupled with Harris’ involvement in student government and athletics, prevented her from designing her own artwork for the past two years.
In 2010, she chalked a Tinkerbell design she found online. This year, in the square sponsored by Forever Young Preschool of Vernal, she chose to work from an online image of The Little Mermaid because “my mom’s favorite is Ariel.”
In the weeks leading up to the festival, Harris first sketches out the design she will use on paper. Then she moves outside to the driveway and sidewalks in front of her home. She tries to get a feel for how different colors will work together and practices her blending technique.
“The fingers that you rub with, even though you’re using gloves, you can’t feel for a couple of days (after the festival) in those fingers,” Harris said.
“The hardest part about chalking is walking away from it,” she added. “You spend so much time and you know in a couple days it’s going to be a road.”
Harris doesn’t consider herself an artist, though she does some online graphic design and is designing T-shirts for the Utes’ volleyball team. She sees art as a way to relax, she said, and isn’t considering a career in the field.
“Right now I just want to be a volleyball player and get a degree in forensic science,” she said.