Chalk It Up: I Madonnari Street Painting Festival

The Queen of the Missions, Mission Santa Barbara, is lovely in its own right. With a backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the abundant blooms of the rose garden just across the street, this site needs nothing more to wow visitors than its stately self.   

But every year, an additional 25,000 more visit this site over Memorial Day weekend for the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival when artists fill the plaza surrounding the Old Mission with 150 intricate, creative and colorful chalk drawings. The spaces vary in size from 4’ x 6’ to 12’ x 16’ and are sponsored by a variety of organizations, families, businesses and individuals with proceeds benefitting the local arts education non-profit the Children’s Creative Project. The free festival begins on Saturday, May 24 at 10:00 am and closes on Monday, May 26 at 6:00 pm with artists working live throughout the weekend.

immadonnari festival

Photo Credit:



Bring the family and get the wee ones involved by purchasing a 2’x2’ square for $10 in the kids area. An Italian Market provides music, food and other wares enabling you to turn it into a full day’s outing.

Make no mistake, these works are visual masterpieces that defy what most of us think possible with chalk and a sidewalk. Don’t be surprised to see eyes that seem able to see into your soul and 3D creations that will confuse and amuse as they seemingly reach from the ground. After the event, the paintings fade over time by the foot traffic of visitors to the Old Mission and witnessing the erosion of such beautiful art is an interesting process to observe.

immadonnari chalk painting

Photo Credit: Courtney Dietz