Hundreds attended the annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival at the Santa Barbara Mission this Memorial Day weekend to view chalk art, eat traditional Italian fare and enjoy the warm weather.

Approximately 200 artists created chalk art on the asphalt directly in front of the mission’s entrance. In addition, attendees were provided with music from local bands and a number of booths offered food, wine and festival merchandise.

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Artists convene at the Santa Barbara Mission this weekend to show off their prowess at chalking artwork onto public sidewalks. Proceeds generated from the festival are applied to support children’s art programs in the local community.

All money generated from the event will benefit children’s art programs in over 100 schools throughout the Santa Barbara area.

The tradition of Italian street painting is inspired by 16th-century artists who painted depictions of the Madonna outside newly constructed churches for money. Kathy Koury, executive director of the Children’s Creative Project, started the event 24 years ago when she traveled to Italy and witnessed the street painters first-hand.

“[Kathy] realized there was nothing like that in Santa Barbara,” Marilyn Zellet, a member of the Children’s Creative Project, said. “She figured it would be a great thing to try out here and it really took off. There was nothing like it anywhere in the nation and now we have lots of areas seeing what we have done and trying it out for themselves.”

The board of directors for the Children’s Creative Project organized the festival and each member is accountable for a booth.

[media-credit id=20113 align=”alignright” width=”250″][/media-credit]“Not everyone running a booth is a [current] board member, but they have served at one point and simply don’t want to give up on the event,” Zellet said. “We have a lot of people who just want to keep on helping.”

The event attracts both local and out-of-state artists. Delphine Louie — member of a group of six artists known as the “Six Pack” — participates in the event every year.

“It’s really rewarding doing this,” Louie said. “I’m an illustrator, so obviously I’m not usually working on something quite this large.”

UCSB students, such as fourth-year art major Jordan Killebrew, were among those interested in viewing the artists at work.

“It’s amazing that those people put so much work into something that is so temporary,” Killebrew said. “I would be way too frustrated by that. It really speaks to the type of character needed to participate in an event like that.”