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Chalking up a street art festival with a mission to bring art education to schools

Chalk 1.jpeg
Caroline Feraday
Street art is being created all weekend at Santa Barbara Mission

A long-running street painting festival returned to Santa Barbara after a two year break because of the pandemic.

The ground is being swept, areas measured and marked out, and artists are arriving at the Santa Barbara Mission on Friday.

Over the next three days, over a hundred street paintings will be drawn live with chalk pastels on the pavement in front of the Mission.

It’s all to raise funds for the Children’s Creative Project, a non-profit arts education program of the Santa Barbara County Education office.

Kai Tepper, the CCP's executive director, said the funds raised go towards bringing arts education to schools and students, especially ones where the funding doesn't exist.

The festival has been running for 36 years, although – like so many events, had a two year pause for COVID.

Chalk 2.jpeg
Caroline Feraday
The area outside Santa Barbara Mission is set to be transformed

Artist Ky Biswell is getting ready to start her work.

She says the biggest challenge is the weather, with wet or damp conditions making the chalks fade or blend.

"I find it to be one of my favorite mediums, it looks like an actual painting," she said.

But how does she feel about her handiwork being washed away at the end of the three day event?

Biswell, however, says she doesn't mind, but that her mom also does the festival and she says she wishes she could Shellac over the drawings to preserve them.

"She gets all upset because she loves it," but Biswell said she finds that to be part of the joy of the festival.

The I Madonnari Street Painting Festival is the first festival of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. It was created in 1987 by Kathy Koury, the executive director of the Children’s Creative Project, as a fundraising event to benefit our arts education programs. Now there are more than 100 similar street painting festivals throughout the U.S., Canada, Central and South America.

I Madonnari Street Painting Festival runs from 10am to 6pm from Saturday through Monday at the Santa Barbara Mission, located at 2100 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, and remain in place for a few weeks after.