Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 3:43 am | Fair 51º


I Madonnari Street Painting Festival Returns to Santa Barbara Mission This Weekend

Dozens of artists will work on large-scale art pieces during the Memorial Day weekend event

I Madonnari, seen here during its last event in 2016, will again decorate the Santa Barbara Mission plaza this weekend. Click to view larger
I Madonnari, seen here during its last event in 2016, will again decorate the Santa Barbara Mission plaza this weekend.  (Fritz Olenberger file photo)

I Madonnari is coming back to the Santa Barbara Mission this weekend, when street painters will decorate the plaza using pastels on pavement, creating about 150 bold and vibrant, large-scale art pieces. 

The local I Madonnari Italian street painting festival will celebrate its 31st anniversary this year, having brought this tradition from the romantic festival from its sister festival in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy.

This year's festival runs from Saturday through Monday at the Santa Barbara Mission located at the corner of Los Olivos and Laguna Streets. Admission is free and the hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.  

This year’s featured artist, Meredith Morin, is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and has been an artist at I Madonnari since 1992. Her passion for art started at a young age, when she was always drawing, painting, sculpting, or carving. 

“Over the past 10 years, as I’ve gotten to make friends among the artists which helped build my confidence, I find the interaction with the visitors interesting, exciting and fun,” Morin said.

“Though I still get nervous days before the festival, after a few hours have passed on the pavement, so have the nerves. And once those are gone, and I'm into the second day, and my piece is coming to life — that is the biggest highlight of every festival for me. I also love being around my fellow artists and seeing their art unfold. I love hearing the encouragement from the visitors and their appreciation of all the artists in the festival. It's a really great feeling to be a part of such a long standing tradition.”

This year she will be doing a 12-by-16-foot piece, her largest one yet. Morin anticipates that it may take around 36 hours to finish.

It is the preference to have the featured piece have some sort of religious context, so she will be doing an image of Mother Teresa. 

Creating art for the festival isn't easy, Morin said.

I Madonnari, seen here during its last event in 2016, will feature dozens of artists during this weekend’s event. Click to view larger
I Madonnari, seen here during its last event in 2016, will feature dozens of artists during this weekend’s event.  (Fritz Olenberger file photo)

“It’s very torturous physically and sometimes you feel as if you’re in the middle of a marathon just putting one foot in front of the other to get to the finish line,” she said.

“Dealing with body aches and pains and bloody fingertips is a given, and becomes a mental ping-pong match to continue. The weather is also a factor, blistering sun that burns the blacktop and the fingers that touch it, or rain that devastates an entire day of work, can crush your enthusiasm — yet, somehow through all of that I, and the vast majority of other artists make it to the finish line.” 

Also this year, the Multimedia Arts and Design (MAD) Academy from Santa Barbara High School will be dedicating a square for Connor O’Keefe, a student who died after being struck by a train in March.  

Artist Ginny Speirs and her husband Garrett will be working with the students and some of O'Keefe's friends to make the drawing on Saturday during the festival.

“I think many kids are inspired to come out and help with the drawing,” she said. “I'm thinking this will be very therapeutic for processing the loss of their good friend. The family is excited to see their son commemorated in this way.”

They will be using a photograph of O'Keefe taken by a MAD student which the family feels captures the person he was, with a large smile and love of photography, Speirs said.

Benefits from this festival go to the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education, to help fund arts programs in schools. 

The festival sponsors this year include ANGELI, The Berry Man, Inc., Loreto Plaza Shopping Center, Santa Barbara County Education Office, Santa Barbara Mission, Yardi, BENEFATTORI, Bella Vista Designs, Inc., Daniel & Mandy Hochman, AMICI, Bona Fide Brewing Co. Coffee, COX, Haagen Printing/Typecraft Inc., K-LITE 101.7 • 99.9 KTYD • Radio Bronco 107.7, KEYT, NewsChannel 3, KKFX Fox 11, La Casa de Maria & Center for Spiritual Renewal, Marborg Industries, National Charity League, NS Ceramic, Inc., Pacific Western Aerial, Santa Barbara • Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee, Santa Barbara City College Foundation, Santa Barbara News-Press, Seed Mackall LLP, Smart Party Rents, and UNICO Santa Barbara.

Community members can sign up at the festival’s information booth to receive a brochure to be a street painting sponsor or an application to be an artist next year, or can get additional information on the website here. 

Young painters of all ages can participate as well. A family can sponsor a square of any size, and the street painting can be completed by one child or as a family project. Businesses, schools, religious groups, and nonprofit community organizations can all sponsor a square. The festival will inscribe the sponsor's name at the top of the square to acknowledge their support.

For young children, a special street painting area is created with 2-by-2-foot squares that can be purchased during festival hours for $12 which includes a small box of chalk. 

Noozhawk intern Julia Lee 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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