The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts is back in full swing at Walt Disney World.

What You Need To Know

  • EPCOT's Festival of the Arts is an event where artists and chefs get to showcase their creations

  • Leigh Alfredson works with chalk to create themed art

  • She's excited to incorporate interactive elements this year

The event takes a team of creative geniuses that bring the sights and flavors of this much loved festival to life.

“This is Figment,” said Leigh Alfredson, referring to the piece of chalk art she was working on.

Alfredson brings some of Disney’s most iconic characters to life, all with a stick of chalk. That includes Figment, the small purple dragon bursting with imagination who is the face of the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts.

“I’ve been doing chalk art for Disney since 1996, so I started with the animation celebration in 96,” she said. 

On Feb. 20, she and her team will draw 40 distinct characters for the festival, covering the sidewalks near the World Showcase with their creations in the hope of getting the reactions they love year after year.

“‘Wow, that is amazing. How do you do that?’” said Alfredson, quoting the reactions her team's work has received in the past.

“I went to art school, and I got a D in chalk and chalk pastels in my media class,” she said. 

After some encouragement from her dad, she tried it again, and now it’s her passion.

“I am definitely an extrovert, so being able to talk to people all day while I am creating is the best,” said Alfredson. 

She is excited to tackle some new pieces this year.

“Gamora from the Guardians of the Galaxy, and I am doing Groot, baby Groot, which I have never done before, so some new characters are on it,” said Alfredson. 

But what she is most excited about is bringing back some interactive elements to her art for the first time in years. 

“We have a lot of things for kids to do throughout the park, and this is the one adult thing that the adults get to come in — and I’ve got knee pads for them and gloves — and they can actually come in and do a square,” said Alfredson. 

Kids and adults alike can also head to the food studios to check out the dozens of artistic delicacies Chef Phillip Rizo helps create.

“I hope they take it and they are like, 'This is too pretty to eat,'" said Rizo, a sous chef on Epcot’s festival team. "But please, eat it, because it is just as delicious as it is beautiful. You know, this festival, really, we just get to show off as chefs and just see people say, ‘Wow this is beautiful,’” 

He says art inspired him for so many dishes this year, but his favorite is the Angry Crab from the brand new Moderne food studio.

“We have it standing up on the plate like it is reaching out to you, so it’s just an avant-garde style of plating and modern artwork combined into one of these dishes,” said Rizo. 

And of course, he said you can’t forget the star of the show: the Figment popcorn bucket.

“I mean he is just so cute,” said Rizo. “I mean it is Figment, who doesn’t love Figment, right?”

With so much to taste, see and experience, Alfredson said she hopes festival guests find at least one little spark of inspiration.

“(What) I hear every day is, 'I can’t draw a straight line,' and my response is then, 'Don’t, draw a squiggly line,'” she said.

“Because everybody is an artist, they just haven’t found what they are good at yet,” she added.