Sidewalk chalk artist brings colorful creations to Upper Hermosa

Amelia Leidy shows a recent sidewalk chalk "sensory path" she drew in the Upper Hermosa area of La Jolla.

When the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic hit and local parks and recreation opportunities were quickly off limits, La Jolla resident Amelia Leidy wanted to create a “sensory path” for her sister, who has special needs, to work on her motor skills.

Opting for colorful illustrations on the sidewalk drawn in chalk, Leidy started drawing paths with rotating themes every week or two. Some include different activities, such as a tip-toe walk and a crab walk; others include familiar characters, from Moana to Super Mario.

Amelia Leidy's sidewalk chalk creations include activities, messages and familiar characters.
Amelia Leidy’s sidewalk chalk creations include activities, messages and familiar characters such as Frozone from “The Incredibles.”

In May, she created “real-life superheroes” paths featuring black historical figures, as well as cartoons (for example, Miles from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and Frozone from “The Incredibles”). In June, she’s focusing on LGBTQ Pride.

Her creations can be seen on Avenida Cresta in the Upper Hermosa area of La Jolla.

“I noticed that my front walk eventually became a hot spot for kids and families, which encouraged me to continue creating a safe and inclusive space for the neighborhood,” Leidy said. “I try to include different educational topics to give children a way to learn through movement, which is something I did a lot of when teaching students with special needs. My ideas and inspirations have come from various things. One week I did an ocean theme … another week I did a ‘story book hop’ and included different characters from popular children’s books.

“I received a lot of requests from kids for different characters from movies and TV shows, so one week I did a cartoon hop. Kids tend to get excited about characters that they recognize and can connect with, so incorporating education and physical activity with that has been my primary goal.”

Neighbors approve.

“Her artwork has brought so much joy to our lives during this tumultuous time,” Paula Baldin said. “My 2½-year-old daughter fondly refers to her sidewalk art paths as ‘the playground.’ Whenever we walk by, we can see that it brightens everyone’s day. Passersby often admire and comment on the artwork. It really is so wonderful!

“She’s had amazing themes and I can tell a lot of thought goes into it as well because not only are the paths beautiful but they are also interactive and encourage learning through play.”

Laura Costa said: “I love and appreciate Amelia’s creative chalk artwork. I discovered her vibrant art while on a walk with my dog Ruby. I think it’s wonderful she expresses lessons through interactive storytelling. Although I do not have kids, I make it a point to take pics of each sidewalk creation and share with my family group chat and friends on social media. I get the most heartwarming responses whenever I share.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to get conversations going, not only with kids but adults as well. I love that her recent shares have dived into some very important topics: inclusivity, acceptance, black history, recognition and celebration of diversity. ... Her chalk work has become the highlight of our walks and we look forward to future creations she cares to share.”

Leidy’s artistic process includes research and development of the topics, a rough sketch on paper and taking chalk to concrete.

The Texas native and special-education teacher moved to La Jolla a year ago with her fiancé to be close to her parents and sister.

“My sister with special needs has been my biggest influence,” she said. “But my piece [in May] was inspired by current events taking place. I wanted to help introduce children to influential black leaders who they may have not been exposed to or learned about yet. African American people are underrepresented in media and often in curriculum. As an educator, I think it’s extremely important to discuss race and racism with children and expose them to different cultures and ideas. As a white woman, I wanted to make sure that I better understand how inherent racism and biases are cemented from an early age.”

In La Jolla specifically, Leidy added, “children here are less likely to be exposed to conversations about race and racism. It was important to me to create a sidewalk chalk piece that was educational and exposed children to different black leaders that they may otherwise not have had exposure to. I also wanted to give parents an easy way to start a conversation with their child about the Black Lives Matter movement and why it is important. By providing children with something they can relate to through fun activities and characters, parents are able start those conversations in an organic way.”

Amelia Leidy's sidewalk chalk projects for June include LGBTQ Pride themes featuring rainbows and this Equali-T-rex.
Amelia Leidy’s sidewalk chalk projects for June include LGBTQ Pride themes featuring rainbows and creatures such as this Equali-T-rex.

Her LGBTQ Pride creations include a rainbow path with the words “Love is love” at the start and a colorful bird with the words “He, she, they, be as you may.”

Leidy said she hopes the project will serve as a way for her to engage the community in discussions about current events.

“Though my ultimate goal of my artwork is to create an inclusive space for children and people like my sister who are neuro-diverse ... I feel like it would be a disservice to not use my platform to benefit our community through those conversations. I plan to continue to create art that’s both educational and fun.”

Because the pieces are temporary, Leidy has taken to cataloging them at ◆