The 25th annual “I Madonnari” Italian Street Painting Festival featured 150 large scale artworks last weekend at the Santa Barbara Mission plaza in celebration of local artistic talent.

The three-day fair — mirrored after a similar event in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy — ran from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and attracted tens of thousands of people as street painters used pastels to fill the pavement with various images. The proceeds benefited the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s nonprofit program Children’s Creative Project to help about 50,000 children from 150 schools in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County through visual and performing arts workshops and shows.

Artists began replicating church paintings in front of cathedrals as early as the 15th century to help collect coins from passersby. However, the structural damage caused during World War II resulted in most painters discontinuing the practice until the famous Italian street art festival began in 1972.

This year’s featured artist Tom Meaney created a 12-by-16 foot piece inspired by the Italian baroque artists. Veteran festival artists Ann Hefferman, Jennifer LeMay, Blair Looker, Sharyn Namnath, Jay Schwartz, Dan Seibert and Laura Wilkinson collaborated to create a 24-by-30 foot piece of artwork.[media-credit id=16756 align=”alignleft” width=”149″][/media-credit]

The festival also featured an array of entertainment, including live music and an Italian market with Italian cuisine and cultural memorabilia. Additionally, the gala hosted a ceremony yesterday on the mission steps honoring County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone.


—Staff Report