by JIM HARRIS
Over the past five years or so, chalk seems to have become the graphic media of choice for street artists and protesters all across the U.S. It was much in evidence at all of the Occupy encampments last year and is undoubtedly present on the streets and buildings surrounding this week’s Republican Convention.

We here in the Northwest are also privy to the work of talented chalk artists, albeit law-abiding ones. Chestnut Hill’s own Mel Marmer (seen here) does the beautiful chalk signage for both the Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill Weavers Way stores. Mel graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art with a degree in graphic design, worked in advertising for 30 years, and after retiring took a job working in groceries at the Chestnut Hill co-op (“to get me out of the house”). When they found out about his drawing skills, they added sign making to his duties. (Photo by Z. Schulz)

Locally, you may have heard or read about 18-year-old Connor Logan and his 17-year-old friend who were recently charged with criminal mischief for drawing with chalk on a street in Doylestown. According to the police report, the boys had drawn “a large whale and several sea turtles on the street.”

The drawings were quickly washed away by rain despite police attempts to keep it from raining by shooting at the sky and yelling “Halt!” The cops did take numerous photos of the fishy frescos, though, which they expected to use as exhibits in a high-profile trial.

An inside source, who asked not to be identified by name on account of he didn’t want people to think he was a complete idiot, said that chalk drawings of genitalia, song lyrics and other symbols had previously been found in other locations around town, and that if Connor and his friend could be linked to those as well, the charges would be upgraded to a misdemeanor, possibly even domestic terrorism. Housekeepers might even be putting new sheets on a bunk bed in a cell at Guantanamo Bay Prison that’s waiting for them.

Asked if any of the previous drawings were specifically of “whale or sea turtle genitalia,” the source said that forensics was looking into it, but that drawing an anatomically correct whale would require a huge amount of chalk. “We certainly don’t have that kind of chalk here in Doylestown,” he said. “They’d have to bring it in from Philly. There’s always plenty of chalk in Philadelphia because they need it to outline all the dead bodies in the street.”

Addressing the hordes of media outside his house the day after his encounter with police, Logan said he was not a part of any gang and that on the night in question, he just happened to see a piece of chalk lying on the ground, so he “picked it up and started to draw.”

All of the media frenzy and public interest suddenly came to a halt on Aug. 17, however, when police abruptly withdrew the charges. This was unexpected and left a number of heavily invested organizations in the lurch. For instance, the ACLU, Amnesty International, Move On, Act Up, Act Out, Act Out Some More and the Chalk Manufacturers of America were all busy mounting campaigns, circulating petitions and mailing out fundraising letters related to the case.

Additionally, the Philadelphia Museum of Art had already scheduled a retrospective exhibition, “Connor Logan: My Life in Chalk,” for next month. According to the show’s curator, Jean-Claude Fondue, it was to have been promoted as “A collection of drawings (three, to be exact, but with a lot of accompanying documentation) created amidst a backdrop of unrelenting censorship and persecution.”

“Now we’re stuck,” said Fondue, “with 7,000 tee shirts and coffee mugs with drawings of whales and turtles on them. I hope we can sell them to the Zoo.”

Also in the works was a film documentary, “Connor Logan: Never Sorry,” billed as “The inside story of a young dissident who inspired a global audience and blurred the boundaries between art and politics and whales.” The film’s director, M. Night Shyamalan, had unprecedented access to Connor for almost 11 minutes when he stopped in Doylestown to get gas on the way to New York.

So anyway, life in Doylestown is now slowly returning to the way it was before the incident — kind of like 1952, except with computers and cell phones — and the most exciting thing going on in town these days is the Backyard Garden Tool Expo down at Borough Hall. For his part, Connor Logan is heading off to Penn State where he plans to study engineering and the history of chalk and make way more money than a policeman ever could.