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Local News

I Madonnari Is the Chalk of the Town This Weekend at Santa Barbara Mission

To delight of crowd, 32nd annual street painting festival turns pavement into works of art


Thousands of spectators strolled along the Santa Barbara Mission’s plaza Sunday to watch artists at work during the free I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, which runs through Monday.

Roughly 140 large-scale images are being drawn with pastel chalk, and they stretch across the pavement in front of the mission.

The 32nd annual gathering — which is inspired by a festival in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy — attracts crowds of viewers to enjoy the eye-grabbing art, music, food and weather at the mission, at 2201 Laguna St.

“The I Madonnari is typically done at the steps of the mission in Italy,” festival coordinator Bryan Kerner said, adding the event is the first festival of its kind in North America.

“What makes this unique is that we get to replicate what it would feel like in Italy.”

The event benefits the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office. The organization serves about 50,000 children in more than 100 schools with visual and performing arts workshops and performances throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Andrea Johnston, of Sacramento, was one of the artists plying the pavement. She eyed a photograph of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s new koala, Edmund, that served as a preliminary guide she uses to base her sidewalk art on a space along Los Olivos Street.

“One thing I strive to do with my art is find all of the hidden colors that you don’t necessarily see,” said Johnston, a 10-year street painter.

It is her first time participating in the Santa Barbara event, but she has taken part in Northern California festivals.

Johnston was on her hands and knees adding the finishing touches to Edmund’s arm Sunday evening.

“Knee pads are mandatory,” she said. “I have to stand up all of the time to check and make sure what I’m doing is looking right.”

This year’s featured artist, Lysa Ashley, is a teacher and artist from Corona. She has been street painting for 22 years.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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