29th annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival set to open this coming weekend

Blair Looker, featured artist of this year's I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, holds one of her sketches that will be created in chalk at the Santa Barbara Mission next weekend. HELENA DAY BREESE/NEWS-PRESS
Blair Looker, featured artist of this year’s I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, holds one of her sketches that will be created in chalk at the Santa Barbara Mission next weekend.
HELENA DAY BREESE/NEWS-PRESS

The black asphalt outside the Santa Barbara Mission will once again bloom with color this coming weekend when it hosts the 29th annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival.

Artists – from touring professionals in the street-painting scene to first-time volunteers and children – will cover the grounds outside the Mission with a patchwork of chalk paintings of their own design.

The festival is the creation of the Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office. The event is free, but raises funds through sale of T-shirts, food and drink in what usually turns out to be a very busy area of town. Local business sponsor the paintings, which vary from 4-by-6 feet to 12-by-12.

This year’s featured artist is Blair Looker, who has been a part of I

Madonnari for 26 of its 29 years.

This is her first time as featured artist, though in the past she has worked as an assistant to the featured artist.

Her work, at 12-by-16 feet, will be a triptych, with Saint Barbara on the left; Father Junipero Serra, founder of the Mission, on the right; and the Virgin of Guadalupe in the middle.

A working artist, Ms. Looker also teaches art and music to the children of Isla Vista Elementary School. At last year’s festival she recreated in chalk Francisco Goya’s “The Parasol,” and she says this year’s painting will be even more of a challenge.

The painting was inspired by Ms. Looker’s trip to Puerto Vallarta in November. She and four other I Madonnari street painters – Ann Hefferman, Melody Owns, Phil Roberts and Meredith Morin – participated in that sister city of Santa Barbara’s own version of the festival.

Children who want to try their hand at chalk art can find an expanded area at the Mission, where 2-foot squares can be purchased for $12 (including a box of chalk).

And for the whole family, there will be live music throughout the three-day event along with an Italian market, where members of the Children’s Creative Project will staff booths

selling lemon-rosemary roasted chicken, pasta, pizza, calamari, Italian sausage sandwiches and more, in honor of the Italian street painting that inspired this Santa Barbara festival nearly 30 years ago.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through May 25. For more information, go to www.imadonnarifestival.com or call Kathy Koury at 964-4710, ext. 4411.

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