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SANTA BARBARA'S STREET SM(ART)S.

Byline: Judy De Loretta Special to the Daily News

Food, music, an Old California mission, serious artists and little kids with fistfuls of chalk - they're the makings for a perfect melding of fun and artistry Memorial Day weekend.

Visitors will flock to the seaside town of Santa Barbara for the 10th annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, which runs May 25-27.

The historic Santa Barbara Mission provides the setting, as it has every year I Madonnari has taken place. It also provides the 20,000-square-foot pavement area on which local artists showcase their street paintings from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily in rich and vibrant colors.

I Madonnari offers a chance for local artists and visitors to meet, and for children to become I Madonnari - street painters - themselves. Visitors can watch art in the making and tour the mission.

``The art form itself is fascinating,'' said Kathy Koury, executive director of Children's Creative Project through the Santa Barbara County Education Office. She created the festival 10 years ago. ``The drawings are composed of such incredible colors.'' Some are reproductions of famous pieces; others are originals.

The art form began during the 16th century in Italy, when war veterans drew images of Our Lady Madonna using chalk on the street at Catholic religious festivals.

The artists became known as Madonnari, derived from the word ``Madonna,'' and the art form still continues today throughout Europe. However, I Madonnari is the only Italian street painting festival of its kind in the United States, according to Koury.

Children also participate - and they even get to keep the chalk.

Those who come for the art usually stay for the food, Koury said.

An Italian market sells lemon rosemary roasted chicken, lasagna, pasta and Italian sausage. All are homemade and priced from $2 for a slice of pizza to $6 for a full plate of chicken salad and bread or pasta. For dessert, there's plenty of tiramisu, strawberries, cheesecakes and cookies for around $2 per portion. Sample the Italian cuisine and ``you will feel like you're in Italy,'' Koury said.

The art and food are accompanied by music that ranges from tango to jazz to western swing, all played on the mission's lawn. From 6 to 7 p.m. May 25, the Santa Barbara Grand Opera company will perform selections from ``Rigoletto'' and ``La Boheme.'' From 6 to 7 p.m. May 26, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra will perform.

This year's featured artists are primarily architects, said Koury.

Although amateur artists are also invited to participate in the street artistry, featured artists Tim Steele, Pat Pouler, Tom Meaney and Lori Kari will re-create the Sistine Chapel's Michelangelo piece ``Brazen Serpent'' on a 30-foot-by-15-foot square.

``This year, our emphasis is on doing studies of the masters' works,'' said Steele, who has participated in I Madonnari since its inception.

The festival atmosphere can't be beat. The mission site overlooks the city of Santa Barbara, with views of the city and the shoreline.

``It's an opportunity for people to see art being made instead of marketed,'' said Steele. ``The whole emphasis is on creating the art. And the asphalt acts as a wonderful medium for blending the colors together, probably because of the oil. The saturated colors in the intense California sunlight make the event spectacular site to behold.''

On a mission to I Madonnari

To reach the I Madonnari festival at the Santa Barbara Mission, take Highway 101 north to the Mission Street exit, travel east to Laguna Street, turn left and continue to Los Olivos Street and to the mission entrance. Admission is free.

For more information, call (805) 569-3873. Or call the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau, (805) 966-9222.

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Photo: Santa Barbara's I Madonnari Italian Street Pain ting Festival provides a 20,000-square-foot pavement area on which local artists showcase their street paintings.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 17, 1996
Words:656
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