For most of us, our familiarity with chalk does not extend much further than writing math problems on a blackboard or sketching hopscotch courses on playground pavement. To the artists of the San Luis Obispo I Madonnari Festival, chalk is the medium of choice and instrument by which the sidewalks surrounding Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa are transformed each September. Held as a benefit for the Children’s Creative Project and the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Festival seeks to raise funds and support arts education programs in the San Luis Obispo area.
The tradition of chalk painting has its roots in Italy beginning in the 16th century. Pieces started as images devoted to the Madonna. Painters, who were originally brought to work on the cathedrals, would travel from town to town participating in folk and religious festivals, living on the coins donated from devotees who admired their paintings. Current work ranges from the impressionistic to highly realistic, each utilizing an enormous amount of skill to compose large works from compressed pigment. In the early 1970’s, the art form was officially promoted by the formation of a celebration in Grazia di Curtatone, Itally, and has since become popular around the world.
The SLO I Madonnari will take place this September 10-11 from 10am to 6pm daily. Call the AIA at (805) 541-6294 or visit the official site for more details and map.