|Photo: Nell Campbell|
Agaves/Artist Jennifer LeMay
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 (CCP), 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, 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 Cal State University, 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. Street Painting is 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; they include projects in China, Canada, Mexico and Italy. Her paintings on walls and canvas are also global. She is a Muralist and Ambassador for the Art Miles Mural Project, a global initiative advocating Peace through Art. A recent mural featuring the Pope won a MY HERO Award.
Cecelia 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 24-by-30 feet street painting. Tracy Lee Stum, Sharyn Chan, Ann Hefferman, Lisa Jones, Jennifer LeMay, Jay Schwartz, and Laura Wilkinson are designing an original piece. Tracy Lee Stum will debut her book “The Art of Chalk” with a book signing from 2 to 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. By looking uniquely into the mirror, the image appears not to be distorted.
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 40-by-60-feet patchwork of colorful paintings. Throughout the three-day event, the 2-by-2-feet Kids’ Squares can be purchased for $12, which includes a box of chalk.
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 produced by the Children’s Creative Project Board of Directors. 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, coffees, and specialty items designed from prior years’ festivals including T-shirts, posters, note cards and more.
I Madonnari is produced by the Children’s Creative Project (CCP), a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office. The organization is the first to create a festival in North America featuring the public art of street painting. After traveling to a street painting competition in Italy, CCP Executive Director Kathy Koury created the festival and the concept of sponsored street-painting squares 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 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. 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. 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 that is believed to have begun during 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 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.
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 35,600 children. Fundraising from the I Madonnari festival helps to continue the CCP’s work to support annual performance events and other activities.
On April 13 at the Arlington Theatre, the CCP presented a free performance for 2,000 elementary schoolchildren who experienced the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The performance was presented in collaboration with UCSB Arts & Lectures. The performance was fully funded by the I Madonnari Festival with grant support from The Towbes Foundation.
This 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 this program, festival proceeds also provide every county public school with a $200 arts credit to help pay the companies’ performance fees.
For festival photos or more information about the Children’s Creative Project or I Madonnari, or to arrange artist interviews, contact Koury at 964-4710, ext. 4411, or go to imadonnarifestival.com. To interview featured artist Cecelia Linayao: 619-993-2089, or CeceliaLinayaoFineArt.com.