Chalk Drawing, also known as Street Painting is a new form of art and one of the most public art forms of the times. From all the chalk drawing emails being sent around with Julian Beaver’s trick anamorphic cartoon work, to Kurt Wenner’s intense epic work, and Tracy Lee Stum’s breathtakingly beautiful 3D chalk drawings, the world is waking up to a new art form. There are street painting festival happening all over the world. They are wonderful ways for the local community to fund raise for the arts and for children and adults to see and interact with artists.

Sue Carlomagno, Founder: Youth in Arts Italian Street Painting Festival

It is believed that street painters, known as Madonnari, date back to 13th century Italy. There is much uncertainty about the origin of the Madonnaro. Even the name Madonnaro has had various meanings. The word was not common in northern Italy. A Madonnaro referred to a vender who sold religious artifacts, while in the south it is believed that the Madonnaro was a street painter, using stones and simple chalks to create his images.  After World War II, Italy discouraged the Madonnari and tried to eliminate the art form which was considered an image of poverty.

In 1973 the first street painting festival in the world, Centro Italiano Madonnari, became part of a centuries old annual celebration of the building of Santuario di Santa Maria delle Grazie in the village of Grazie di Curtatone, Italy.  This Catholic church, dedicated to the Madonna of Graces, was built between the years of 1399 and 1407.  It was constructed over a chapel where, for hundreds of years, thousands of pilgrims visited annually during the Feast of the Assumption to ask for blessings and pray for miracles.  After the completion of the church, the annual festival developed into a huge religious celebration and Italian market.  Artisans from all over the area brought their goods to sell and today it is still considered good luck to purchase items.

Kurt Wenner was the first artist to bring street painting to the US. He is the grandfather of the chalk drawing movement and continues to be one of the world’s best.

Kathy Koury visited the Centro Italiano Madonnari festival and returned to California to design a fundraising event for Children’s  Creative Project. The first street painting festival in the United States took place in 1987 at Mission Santa Barbara and that was the beginning of a tradition that is spreading across the country and beyond. Santa Barbara iMadonnari Festival

The plans for the first Youth in Arts Italian Street Painting Festival (no longer happening) began within weeks of my discovery of the I Madonnari festival in Santa Barbara. In 1994, on the streets in front of historic Mission San Rafael Archangel in downtown San Rafael, California, the first Youth in Arts Italian Street Painting Festival made its debut. Since then dozens of festivals and street painting exhibitions have taken place throughout the United States and in many countries around the world. Presently there are festivals in Canada, Mexico, Europe, China, Japan, and other parts of Asia.

The largest event these days are
Sarasota Florida Chalk Festival 
Lake Worth Florida Chalk Festival
Pasadena Chalk Festival


And the way I like to tell it… in the old days the church wouldn’t let the poor into the big fancy churches, so the artists drew portraits of the Saints on the streets with chalk so that the people could still connect to spirit through the image. I love this… connecting to spirit through the image.

Mark Lewis Wagner: Founder – Drawing on Earth