For someone who works in a medium as ephemeral as chalk, Kara Hoblin definitely leaves a permanent impression. Not only is she one of the North Fork’s most visible artists (you can spot her standing on a restaurant bar creating one of her signature public chalk installations), but she’s also known as a major connector — creating a tight-knit community of artists and the public.
In 2017 she founded the North Fork Art Collective, a creative workspace and artist incubator in Greenport, bringing a group of artists together for shows, camaraderie and support. The Collective also expanded its ranks to include community members in 2018, joining both full-time professionals and weekend amateur artists alike.
In her ongoing dinner series “Palette to Palate,” Hoblin connects art with food and community. At each one, local chefs create a tasting menu inspired by local artworks, then serve it up at one big sharing table. “It’s all about bringing people together where they can be inspired by each other,” she said.
Community is so important, that when she launched her North Fork Coloring Book, Hoblin didn’t just do a signing at a bookstore, but rather held group coloring events at local establishments such as Little Creek Oysters, where everyone hung up their finished work at the restaurant. “I wanted people not to just color, but to come together,” she said.
Hoblin’s been metaphorically connecting the North and South forks, too. As curator of the gallery at Castello di Borghese Vineyard in Cutchogue, she hosted a show there last year called “Bridging the North and South Fork Artist Communities.” The North Fork Art Collective also includes artists from both forks, and she’s the only North Fork artist in the “Takeover” artists residency at the Southampton Arts Center.
CHALK ART OF LETTING GO
Hoblin might be best known for her chalk art, but that whole path was a happy accident. She began her professional art trajectory as a photographer and worked briefly at a photo styling agency in New York City. But after her photography equipment was stolen as she was leaving Brooklyn, she had to reinvent herself in Greenport. The “light bulb” moment came when the restaurant First and South asked her to create a chalk mural for them. “I was nervous and not sure I could do it,” she admitted. “But when owner Sarah Phillips said, ‘Well, if it’s terrible we can just erase it!’ a light bulb went off in my head. I realized things aren’t so permanent; it’s all about perspective. It allowed me to move forward, to let go and embrace a new path.”
So after building a name for herself as the “chalk girl” — creating chalk murals, plus lettered signs and menus for local restaurants, bars, stores and weddings — Hoblin took her art to another level with her Art of Letting Go series, held at establishments on the East End. Here, Hoblin invites the community to watch her create chalk art, then everyone grabs spray bottles and sponges for the self-explanatory Big Erase. “It gave me the opportunity to see people interact with my work and utilize it as a tool for self-healing” she said.
The series has been so emotionally cathartic for Hoblin that she recently began teaching The Chalk Art of Letting Go classes for the community. Classes are small, featuring a mix of meditation practice, creative outlet and therapy.
“Everyone gets their own chalkboard, and then we talk about things that they’re going through. Some people draw what’s on their mind, while the less artistic might just write things out on the boards,” she said. “There are no judgments. Classes are really intimate, and people tell me their stories and I tell them mine.”
Afterward, everyone wipes their boards clean, literally ending up with a clean slate.
“It teaches that ‘even though it’s gone, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.’ It just means you’re moving forward … with positivity,” said Hoblin, who has become a “glass half full” person after surviving a freak, almost fatal illness several years ago.
Positivity is another word that drives her to link the art community with local charity events. She spearheaded the “Buoys for the Bays” project, where artists and the public paint buoys to be auctioned off at Borghese Vineyard for the benefit of Cornell Cooperative Marine Extension. She also organized the “Sea Something, Save Something” art exhibit and kelp-inspired art benefit dinner at Noah’s, also for CCME.
While she admits The Chalk Art of Letting Go is one of her favorite projects, she’s excited to embark on more large-scale and even permanent works. Last year she created a live chalk installation for 30,000 at the Levitate Music Festival in Massachusetts. This year she’s embarking on permanent projects, most notably a large-scale outdoor mural for the new Menhaden Hotel in Greenport.
While Hoblin’s work is often centered on “the magical North Fork” with its beautiful flora, fauna and vistas, lately she’s moved into other realms. Astrology, astronomy and the unseen depths of oceans and space factor in more frequently, as do mythical creatures like mermaids. Some of these inspirations were drawn from trips to Tulum, Mexico, where Hoblin stumbled into a “forest filled with super healing energy and art installations.”
“My college thesis was on the origin of fairy tales and it inspired a new series of drawings based on origin stories from different cultures. Last year I also participated in the Cosmik Debris show at VSOP gallery with an astrological self-portrait,” she said, noting that she incorporated the “third eye” in her work, an opening to the soul that was popular in the work she saw in Mexico.
“One of my goals this year is to do astrological portraits for other people,” added Hoblin. “My work comes full circle when it’s helping people.”
North Fork Art Collective is located at 15 Front Street, Greenport.