Cheryl and Wayne Renshaw work on their street painting.

Cheryl and Wayne Renshaw work on their street painting. (Vita-Bella)

The community will celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival 10 a.m.-6 p.m. May 25-27 at the Santa Barbara Mission.

A ceremony at noon May 27 on the Mission steps will introduce and thank the major festival sponsors and featured artist Sharyn Chan as her street painting is concluded.

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

“I Madonnari is a weekend of sharing colorful artwork in a beautiful setting for the benefit of arts education in our schools,” said county Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido.

“The popularity and longevity of this event highlights how important arts are in this community,” she said. “The proceeds of the I Madonnari festival directly support arts education for more than 50,000 children in classrooms all around Santa Barbara County.”

The festival features 140 street paintings drawn with chalk pastels on the pavement in front of the Mission. As the public watches, 200 local artists transform these pavement canvases into elaborate compositions in vibrant colors.

The spaces range in size from 4-by-6 feet to 12-by-12 feet and in price from $150-$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, Daniel and Mandy Hochman, and Bella Vista Designs. The festival thanks the Santa Barbara Mission for hosting I Madonnari.

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.

Chan, the 2019 featured artist, is a blend of scientist, artist, hip-hop dancer/choreographer, and motorcycle racer.

A self-taught artist and student of fellow street painters, she works traveling around the world as a street artist, solo, with friends, and as a part of various teams.

She also works as a hip hop dance instructor and a government contract project manager.

Chan started her artwork as a toddler, drawing illustrations of rabbits and bears at age 3, but her career path took a turn in college where she graduated with a computer science degree and stayed in that field for 30-plus years.

She dabbled in the artistic side of computers, diving into Photoshop and graphic arts on the side, but, it was not until she met world-class street painters at the Santa Barbara I Madonnari Festival in 2001 that she learned about the ancient art form of street painting.

Rekindling her passion for art, Chan began street painting in her hometown of Santa Barbara and has traveled worldwide participating in festivals and street painting. She recently started mural work and commissions.

An expanded area for children to create street paintings will be at the west side of the Mission inside a private parking area. Some 600 Kids’ Squares are available. When completed, they will form a 40-by-60-foot patchwork of colorful street art.

During the event, the 2-by-2 Kids’ Squares can be purchased for $12, which includes a box of chalk.

Other highlights include live music and an Italian market on the Mission lawn. The market offers Italian cuisine produced by the Children’s Creative Project Board of Directors.

Offered at the market will be lemon-rosemary roasted chicken, pasta, pizza, calamari, Italian sausage sandwiches, gelato, coffees, and specialty items designed from prior years’ festivals including T-shirts, posters, and note cards, said Bryan Kerner, board president.

All proceeds from sales benefit the Children’s Creative Project.

I Madonnari came about after CCP executive eirector Kathy Koury traveled to a street painting competition in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy. Koury created the festival and the concept of sponsored street painting art 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 the I Madonnari festival in the yearlong series of events that celebrated the Santa Barbara Mission’s bicentennial.

The festival has continued to grow and now is replicated in more than 150 cities throughout the Western Hemisphere.

In November, four I Madonnari street painters — Chan, Ann Hefferman, Rod Tryon,and Marlon Yanes — traveled to Santa Barbara’s sister city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to create street paintings with local artists and children.

Koury has continued to work with Santa Barbara and Puerto Vallarta Sister City representatives to further develop the festival that has taken place in the city’s main plaza since 2006. The project is co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara-Puerto Vallarta Sister City Committee.

Street painting, using chalk as the medium, is an Italian tradition believed to have started in the 16th century.

Called Madonnari because of their 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.

The artists would 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, where the annual International Street Painting Competition is held in mid-August.

Locally, I Madonnari Festival proceeds enable the CCP 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 38,000 children. Fundraising from the I Madonnari festival helps to continue the CCP’s work to support free annual performance events and other activities.

In April, the CCP and the Santa Barbara Bowl’s Education Outreach presented two performances for 2,800 elementary schoolchildren who saw The Alley Cats doo-wop singers of Los Angeles with the UCSB Dance Company at the bowl.

The I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, Santa Barbara Bowl, and grants from The Towbes Foundation, the city of Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture funded the free performances.

During the 2018-19 school year, 50,000 children at 90 school sites will view some 450 performances presented by multicultural touring companies featured in the CCP’s Arts Catalog.

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

— Tracey Beauchamp for Santa Barbara County Education Office.