I Madonnari Soon

Madonnari, the Italian word for pavement artists, transformed the Santa Barbara Mission Plaza using chalk pastels to create incredible artwork across the usually dull concrete. Santa Barbara is proud to be one of the first to bring the romanticized traditional festival from the originating Grazie di Curtatone, Italy. Occurring every May during Memorial Day weekend, from 10am-6pm, the Old Mission of Santa Barbara welcomes everyone (free of admission!) to explore the temporary gallery. The festival benefits the Children’s Creative Project, a non profit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Serving up to 50,000 children in more than 100 schools across the country, the project provides children with visual and performing arts workshops and performances that they would not  have otherwise been exposed to. 

I Madonnari, or street painting, uses chalk and chalk pastels to create incredible pavement murals. Originally from Italy, the tradition is named “Madonnari” because of their practice of reproducing the famous image of the Madonna (Our Lady). Early Italian street painters were oftentime travelers who would arrive in small towns and villages of Italy for Catholic religious festivals, transforming the streets and public squares with their chalk artwork along the way. The temporary galleries then remain on display throughout a duration after Memorial day weekend as the festival leaves, eventually being naturally erased with help from the elements. 

The festival features over 150 street-painting squares drawn with chalk pastels on the pavement. As the public explores, hundreds of local artists of all ages transform their concrete canvas into elaborate temporary murals that brighten the community. Ranging in size, each “canvas” bears the name of its sponsor–a business, organization, family, or individual–donating to the cause. 

Inside a private parking area towards the west side of the Mission, the festival also features a special area for children to create a street painting like the ones they viewed. Hundreds of empty squares are drawn out, available to purchase, for children to unleash their possibly newfound creativity with a box of chalk, creating art of their own. 

Clara Stump, a student who has taken a variety of art classes at San Marcos, said this “I think attending is super fun as you get to see a lot of cool artwork!” 

Alongside the artwork, live music and an Italian inspired market fills the lawn of the Mission throughout the three-day-weekend festivities. The Italian market offers authentic Italian cuisine produced by the Creative Project Board of Directors. Featuring foods like rosemary chicken, pasta, pizza, Italian sausage sandwiches, calamari, gelato, and coffee, the market offers something for everyone. Like the rest of the festival, all proceeds from sales benefit the Children’s Creative Project. 

So if you are  in town this Memorial Day Weekend, take your friends or family to the Old Santa Barbara Mission for food, live music, and of course, incredible chalk art work!