May 10, 2013
The I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival will celebrate its 27th anniversary from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 25, 26, and 27 at the Santa Barbara Mission, with a special ceremony at noon on Monday, May 27, on the mission steps to honor Marilyn Zellet. This year’s festival is dedicated to her, in recognition of her work for the past 13 years in developing and coordinating the festival’s wonderful Italian Market on the mission’s lawn.
I Madonnari, the first festival of its kind in North America to present the performance art of street painting, is presented by and is a benefit for the Children’s Creative Project (CCP), a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office. The festival is sponsored in part by The Berry Man, Loreto Plaza Shopping Center, Granite Construction, Bella Vista Designs, the Girsh and Hochman families, Union Bank, and Yardi Systems.
Marilyn Zellet and her family members have been closely involved with the production of the Italian Market since I Madonnari began in 1987. They owned an event planning and rental company in Santa Barbara and helped plan the Italian Market for the first festival. After selling the company, Marilyn was invited to join the Children’s Creative Project Board of Directors and soon served as its president. Taking on more responsibility for the production of the market, Marilyn became the festival’s Italian Market coordinator, a position she has cherished. Donn Zellet has continued to coordinate the festival’s famous lemon-rosemary barbecue chicken, eldest son Ian participated as a street-painting artist for eight years, son Trevor is owner of Bella Vista Designs and provides electrical and sound equipment, daughter Cristina and her husband Simon Bentley serve on the CCP Board of Directors, and granddaughter Gaia operates the festival’s coffee and dessert booth.
Although she is now spending more time with her grandchildren, Marilyn said she is excited to help guide the festival’s new market coordinator, Bryan Kerner.
The festival features 150 street-painting squares drawn on the pavement in front of the Santa Barbara Mission. The “squares” range in size from 4 by 6 feet to 12 by 12 feet, and in price from $125 to $650, each one bearing the name of its sponsor — a business, organization, family, or individual. As the public watches, 300 local artists transform these pavement canvases into elaborate compositions in unexpectedly vibrant colors. Members of the public can sign up at the festival’s information booth to become a street-painting sponsor or apply to be an artist for next year.
Featured Artists Cheryl and Wayne Renshaw will create a 12-by-16-foot street painting as the public watches from the mission steps. This year, the two artists will share their three-dimensional image (in what’s known as anamorphic perspective) of what angels see when they look down from heaven. Sentinels of the portal connecting heaven and earth will include Father Junipero Serra, to celebrate his 300th birthday; the late Father Virgil Cordano, longtime pastor of the mission; Saint Francis; and Saint Clare of Assisi. The angels will play in and around the portal as they witness the sights below.
Wayne Renshaw is an architect and his wife Cheryl is a landscape designer. They live in Santa Clara, a short walk from Mission Santa Clara, another mission founded by Father Serra. This will be their 14th year celebrating I Madonnari at Mission Santa Barbara.
An expanded area for children to create street paintings will be inside a private parking area at the west side of the mission. Some 600 Kids’ Squares are available; when completed they will form a colorful, 40-by-60 foot patchwork of street paintings. Throughout the three-day event, 2-by-2-foot Kids’ Squares can be purchased for $10, which includes a box of chalk.
Live music and the Italian Market will be featured on the mission lawn throughout the three-day event. In the mission sanctuary, there will be free concerts of sacred music from 6 to 7 p.m. by The Quire of Voyces on Saturday, May 25, and the Adelfos Ensemble on Sunday, May 26. The 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 the prior years’ festivals, including T-shirts, posters, notecards and more.
I Madonnari is produced by the Children’s Creative Project and benefits its arts education program. The organization is the first to create a festival in North America featuring the public art form of street painting. After traveling to a street painting competition in Italy, CCP’s Executive Director Kathy Koury created the concept of sponsored street-painting squares as a fundraiser and produced the first event in 1987.
The I Madonnari festival also was one of a yearlong series of events that celebrated the Santa Barbara Mission’s bicentennial. The late Father Virgil Cordano and the mission’s bicentennial committee members worked with Koury to include the street-painting festival in the mission’s celebration. The festival has continued to grow and now is being replicated in more than 100 cities throughout the U.S. and Mexico.
In November 2012, five I Madonnari street painters — Ann Hefferman, Cecelia Linayao, Meredith Morin, Melody Owens, and Phil Roberts — 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.
Since 1992, the Children’s Creative Project has produced a second festival at the San Luis Obispo Mission Plaza to raise funds for CCP arts education programs in that county. This year’s festival Sept. 7 and 8 is co-presented with the American Institute of Architects California Central Coast Chapter.
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 in the piazza of the Catholic Sanctuary.
Festival proceeds benefit the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office. The project sponsors fine arts programs conducted during school hours for 50,000 children in county schools. Through a program of resident artist workshops, 43 artists conduct visual and performing arts lessons for 23,000 children. Fundraising from the I Madonnari festival helps continue the work of the Children’s Creative Project to support annual performance events, among other activities.
In February at the Arlington Theatre, the CCP presented free morning performances of the African Children’s Choir of Uganda for 4,000 local elementary schoolchildren. Additional funding support comes from Yardi Systems, The Towbes Foundation, Santa Barbara Foundation, and The Dreier Family Foundation.
This year 50,000 children at nearly 100 school sites have viewed more than 450 performances presented by 50 touring companies sponsored in the Children’s Creative Project’s Arts Catalog. To support this program of touring artist performances, festival proceeds also provide every county public school with a $200 arts credit to partially subsidize touring company performance fees.
For festival photos (including photo credits and artist credits), further information about the Children’s Creative Project and I Madonnari, or for help scheduling artist interviews, call Kathy Koury at 964–4710, ext. 4411 or go to www.imadonnarifestival.com.TO INTERVIEW: Marilyn Zellet — (805) 452-5891 Featured Artists Cheryl and Wayne Renshaw — (408) 247-3428