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I Madonnari Street Painting Festival to Return to Santa Barbara Mission May 28-30

Artist Ever Galvez works on a street painting at the Santa Barbara Mission.
Artist Ever Galvez works on a street painting at the Santa Barbara Mission. (Vita-Bella Photography)

I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival will celebrate its 30th anniversary from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. May 28-30, 2016, at the Santa Barbara Mission. A ceremony at noon Monday, May 30, on the Mission steps will introduce and thank the major festival sponsors and featured artist, Cecelia Linayao, as her street painting is concluded.

I Madonnari, the first festival of its kind in North America to present the performance art of street painting, is presented by and raises vital funding for the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

The festival features 150 street-painting squares drawn with chalk pastels on the pavement in front of the Mission. As the public watches, 300 local artists transform these pavement canvases into elaborate compositions in unexpectedly vibrant colors.

The spaces range in size from 4-by-6 feet to 12-by-12 feet and in price from $150 to $700, each one bearing the name of its sponsor — a business, organization, family or individual.

The festival is sponsored in part by The Berry Man, Loreto Plaza Shopping Center, Yardi Systems, Daniel and Mandy Hochman and Bella Vista Designs

Members of the public 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.

This year’s featured artist, Cecelia Linayao, is a fine arts graduate of CSU Long Beach. Chalk has become a favorite tool in her artist’s toolkit.

Besides the traditional crafts of painting with oils, acrylics and computer, she has exploded out of the studio and into the street, with street painting occupying a huge part of her repertoire. She has won many awards and been featured at festivals throughout the United States for both solo and team projects.

Based locally in southern California, her art is global, including projects in China, Canada, Mexico and Italy. She is also a muralist and ambassador for the Art Miles Mural Project, a global initiative advocating peace through art. One of her recent murals, featuring the Pope, won a MY HERO Award.

Linayao is deeply honored to be the featured artist at Santa Barbara’s I Madonnari. Keeping in mind the gravitas of a 30th anniversary, she has chosen a classic subject — the Madonna — with surprise touches of whimsy for celebration.

To celebrate the 30th year, seven amazing and long-time I Madonnari artists are collaborating to create a 720-square-foot street painting. Tracy Lee Stum, Sharyn Chan, Ann Hefferman, Lisa Jones, Jennifer LeMay, Jay Schwartz and Laura Wilkinson are designing the original piece.

Stum also will debut her book, The Art of Chalk, with a book signing from 2-3 p.m. each day.

Rod Tryon will create a special mirror anamorphosis, with a conical or cylindrical mirror placed in the center of the street painting to transform a flat distorted image into a three-dimensional picture that can be viewed from many angles.

An expanded area for children to create street paintings will be located at the west side of the Mission inside a private parking area. Some 600 kids’ squares are available. When completed, they will form a 2,400-square-foot patchwork of colorful paintings. Throughout the three-day event, the 2-by-2-foot kids’ squares, along with a box of chalk, can be purchased for $12.

Live music and an Italian market will be featured on the Mission lawn throughout the three-day event. The festival’s fabuloso Italian Market offers authentic Italian cuisine made by the Children’s Creative Project’s board of directors.

Crowds browse through the ephemeral gallery of a previous I Madonnari festival. Click to view larger
Crowds browse through the ephemeral gallery of a previous I Madonnari festival. (Vita-Bella Photography)

According to Board President Phil Morreale and Market Coordinator Bryan Kerner, this year’s market will include lemon-rosemary roasted chicken, pasta, pizza, calamari, Italian sausage sandwiches, gelati and coffee as well as specialty items designed from prior years’ festivals, including T-shirts, posters, note cards and more.

About I Madonnari

After traveling to a street painting competition in Italy, Children’s Creative Project Executive Director Kathy Koury created I Madonnari as a fundraiser and produced the first local festival in 1987.

The late Father Virgil Cordano and the Santa Barbara Mission’s bicentennial committee members also worked with Koury to include I Madonnari festival in the yearlong series of official events that celebrated the Santa Barbara Mission’s bicentennial.

The festival has continued to grow and now is being replicated in more than 100 cities throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and in November 2015, four I Madonnari street painters — Ann Hefferman, Julio Jimenez, Melody Owens and Meredith Morin — traveled to Santa Barbara’s sister city of Puerto Vallarta to create street paintings with local artists and children.

Street painting, using chalk as the medium, is an Italian tradition that is believed to have begun during the 16th century. Called “Madonnari” because of the practice of reproducing the image of the Madonna (Our Lady), the early Italian street painters were vagabonds who would arrive in small towns and villages for Catholic religious festivals and transform the streets and public squares into temporary galleries for their ephemeral works of art.

With the first rains of the season, their paintings would be gone. Today, the tradition lives on in the village of Grazie di Curtatone, Italy, where the annual International Street Painting Competition is held in mid-August.

Proceeds from I Madonnari enable the Children’s Creative Project to sponsor fine-arts programs conducted by professional artists during school hours for 50,000 children in county public schools. Resident artists provide workshops in the visual and performing arts for more than 35,600 children.

Fundraising from I Madonnari helps to continue the Children’s Creative Project’s work to support annual performance events and other activities. This school year 50,000 children at 90 school sites will view some 450 performances presented by multicultural touring companies featured in the Children’s Creative Project’s Arts Catalog.

To support this program, festival proceeds also provide every county public school with a $200 arts credit to help pay the companies’ performance fees.

For more information about the Children’s Creative Project or I Madonnari, visit

— David J. Lawrence​ represents the Santa Barbara County Education Office.


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