I Madonnari Chalk Painting Festival!

By Robert Bernstein

The I Madonnari Chalk Painting Festival was back in a big way! As usual, I took way too many photos to share them all in this article. I followed the progress each day and also returned on the “fourth day” after Memorial Day when it is a bit less crowded and the art works are all completed.

Here are all of my photos, arranged by day in each of four galleries. Along with my favorite picks and photos from the children’s area.

The event also included plenty of live music and other entertainment. These guys played a lot of popular hits from my era. I asked the name of the band. The lead musician Mark Alvarado said “Some Old Guys”. Apparently they were all friends who had not rehearsed together before that day!

On Memorial Day, when most of the artists were finishing up, there were some short speeches by Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido and by the new head of the Children’s Creative Project Kai Tepper.

The I Madonnari Festival is a fund raiser for the Children’s Creative Project, which is part of the County school system. Kai Tepper has taken over from the creator of the Project and of the Festival, Kathy Koury. But Koury was still very much there, helping put out fires and keep things on track! Here she was running up the Mission steps!

The layout was a bit different this year. The merchandise booth was out in the driveway, leaving more room on the lawn for tables and chairs to eat food and listen to the music. These helpful twins sold me some beautiful note cards with art from past years.

In addition to the usual delicious food, was a new delicious choice: Nimita’s Cuisine. Here Nimita posed for me before serving us a very tasty platter of vegetable korma and salad.

On to the art!

Meredith Morin was back for another creative project.

Javier Garcia was another returning artist.

Amber Roe had one of the largest squares last year, but scaled back slightly to create this image of her daughter making the Earth on a potter’s wheel. It looks surreal, but it is from an actual photo!

This young woman titled her piece “The plural of octopus is octopodes”. I appreciated this. It bugs me when people say “octopi”. Do they also say “sourpi” as the plural of “sourpus”?

My former co-worker at the former Goleta Valley Voice Rod Tryon was back again with his patient skill creating another anamorphic wonder. He kindly posed with me. I watched him start from a crude sketch and mostly create it on the fly! He did have a few photos, including of the parent crow. But mostly it just flowed through him onto the pavement. I asked if he ever paints. He said he now is only comfortable making big art! Notice the reflection of the Mission in his piece!

Dawn Morrison Wagner created her first street painting for I Madonnari in 1988 and was the featured artist last year. Here she worked on her masterpiece “The Libyan Sibyl”. Originally created by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

Ann Hefferman worked all weekend on this banana flower.

Cecilia Linayao was back again. This time honoring Filipina-American NASA engineer Josephine Santiago-Bond with a space theme work of art. On the occasion of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and International Space Day.

One of the superstars this year was new to Santa Barbara I Madonnari. This is Jessi Queen of North Atlanta. She also had a bit of a space theme going on. This piece she called “Andromeda Emerging from an Eclipse”.

Jessi was introduced to I Madonnari by my friend Sharyn Chan. Here Sharyn paused her work to pose with her nearly-completed piece.

Here one of the other featured artists kindly posed with his nearly-completed piece.

Biologist Jessie Altstatt made another biologically themed piece this year.

Delphine I originally knew as one of my favorite swing dance partners. She was an art teacher at Laguna Blanca and now teaches in Los Angeles. She created her magnificent grand piece with a smile, but indicated she may cut back on such large pieces here in the future.

I Madonnari would not be complete without Tom Meany depicting his family. This time, two of his grandchildren.

It is impossible to capture many of these pieces in their entirety without using some special techniques. Here I put together a few of the pieces of the show in a way that cannot be seen without floating in mid-air!

There is no way for me to feature every amazing art piece here in this article. Please go to my galleries here to see it all! Here are my favorite picks! https://swt.org/events/chalk2023/picks/

And this page gives the history of what I Madonnari is all about. The entire event is a fund raiser for the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office. The Project serves 50,000 children in more than 100 schools with visual and performing arts workshops and performances throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. https://ccp.sbceo.org/i-madonnari/welcome


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  1. I am in awe of the skill and patience of these artists. They are working under pressure of time and interruptions by people like me asking questions. They are sitting for hours on a hard surface that can become like a hot skillet when the sun comes out. The best pieces have extraordinary subtlety of tones, especially in faces.
    YIN YANG thank you for the very kind words. I feel privileged to be the conduit for these truly wonderful works of art.

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