I Madonnari: Street Painting Festival

Mission Plaza after I Madonnari

No matter how many trips you've made to I Madonnari over the years, watching the tents go up on the Mission plaza is still one of the most exciting moments of Summer's coming. The crowds flood in on perfect near-summer days to watch artists work frantically, covered in sweat and chalk as they transform the Mission plaza's pavement into a canvas for community, art and charitable support. This is one of our favorite events in Santa Barbara for good reason.

I Madonnari is Santa Barbara's street painting festival, the first of its kind in North America. There is a long history of street painting in Europe and the art can be traced back to the 16th century in Italy, where street painters often depicted the Madonna (hence the name, I Madonnari). The first competition was held in Italy in 1973. The Santa Barbara festival just celebrated its 26th year.

Little Madonnari's

Little Madonnari: Yours truly at the festival, circa 1992.

The pieces are sponsored by local companies, families and individuals for the benefit of the Children's Creative Project, an organization that works to bring professional artists and young people together to inspire new generations of artists.

This year, our favorite local a Capella group, Quire of Voyces, also sang within the Mission on Saturday evening. Their incredible voices are a fantastic addition to the festivities and we hope they come back next year.

We love the idea of street painting - transforming everyday pavement and sidewalks into incredible works of art. Santa Barbara's essential role in the expansion of this folk art tradition makes us proud.

To learn more, check out this great article from the Independent written a few years back.

-Contributed by Caroline Law