Children’s creative project paves way for return of I Madonnari Street Painting Festival | arts and entertainment

Posted on May 14, 2022
| 8:42 a.m

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Chalk-covered hands are a hallmark of the I Madonnari Street Painting Festival. (Photo courtesy)

The community is invited to celebrate the 36th Anniversary of the I Madonnari Street Painting Festival over Memorial Day weekend. The in-person event will be held May 28-30 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Mission.

I Madonnari, the first festival of its kind in North America showcasing the performance art of street painting, is produced and funded by the Children’s Creative Project (CCP), a non-profit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

This year’s event will celebrate local art master Kai Tepper’s first year as CEO of CCP and honor Kathy Koury, founder and former CEO, for her 44 years of service.

The festival features more than 100 street murals, drawn live with chalk on the sidewalk in front of the mission. Live music and a food market will take place on the Mission’s lawn throughout the three-day event, with new local vendors including United States of Espresso, Dave’s Dogs and Rascal’s Vegan Pop-Up.

Also on offer are traditional dishes such as lemon and rosemary fried chicken, pizza and gelato, made by the CCP Board of Directors with volunteers from the National Charity League and Boys Charity League. All proceeds from sales benefit the Children’s Creative Project.

Musical performances include local favorites Mezcal Martini and Jackson Gilles, as well as youth performances such as SB Piano Boys and local high school jazz bands.

There will be an expanded area on the west side of the mission for children to create street murals. More than 600 children’s squares, including a box of chalk, can be purchased for $15 throughout the event.

This year’s artist, Dawn Morrison Wagner, produced her first streetscape in 1988 during the I Madonnari Festival. She has attended at least one festival a year for the past 35 years. Wagner has been featured across the country, winning numerous awards, and her art has been used in commercial and advertising work.

Her street art has evolved from specializing in classic reproductions, such as pieces that honor the art form’s Italian origins and lineage, to more contemporary perspective pieces that capitalize on the three-dimensional relationship between the viewer and the pavement.

Like many of her Renaissance idols, Wagner combines art and science. She minored in art while studying physics and engineering and continued to travel to festivals while working in the aerospace, semiconductor and now advanced imaging industries.

Wagner dedicates this year’s piece to her father, who was her biggest fan.

On-site parking will be available this year at $5 per car. For more information visit

Also this year, CCP has partnered with a national arts collaboration, Art of Mass Gatherings, to host a one-day symposium on Saturday 29 May alongside the festival.

The Art of Mass Gatherings is a traveling national program that uses festivals as classrooms to activate an arts-centric approach to community resilience and emergency preparedness. It invites artists, organizers and emergency professionals to come together to share knowledge and practices to improve the safety, accessibility and sustainability of large gatherings.

Thanks to a grant from Performing Arts Readiness, the event is free for the first 50 attendees. Lunch is included and accommodation is available upon request at registration.

“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to showcase local outsiders who are driving important changes in the events world, while also learning from nationally recognized experts,” said Elly Iverson, events producer in Santa Barbara and liaison for the project.

Featured guest speakers are Marcos Vargas of the Fund for Santa Barbara; creative director Alfredo Peralta; filmmaker Paul Matthew; and representatives of the local emergency management.

Event highlights include an accessibility tour; Event Electrics Training from Author and Certified Entertainment Electrician Richard Cadena; a hands-on, eco-friendly art workshop with Julie Schneiderman of Stik N Stuk; and a conversation about the role of art and events in a future shaped by climate change.

The festival is made possible by local individuals, foundations and corporations, including this year’s top sponsors: Bella Vista Designs, Challenge Asphalt, Daniel and Mandy Hochman, Loreto Plaza Shopping Center, Mosher Foundation, The Berry Man and Village Properties.

Other sponsors include: American Riviera Bank, Boys Charity League, COX Communication, Community West Bank, Haagen Printing/Typecraft Inc., Heritage House, KEYT NewChannel3, Marborg Industries, Montecito Bank and Trust, National Charity League, NS Ceramics Inc., the Notre Dame School, V3 Print, Santa Barbara Beautiful, Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary.

Also Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara City College Foundation, Weidl Construction and Bank of America.

The organization thanks and recognizes Elly Iverson, Warner Events Management and the Santa Barbara County Education Office for their operational and in-kind support. CCP will host a ceremony on the Mission Steps at noon on May 30th to introduce the festival’s main sponsors and featured artist Wagner, and to thank them when their street painting is complete.

More information about Wagner can be found at

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