I Madonnari Festival goes online to continue sharing artistic vision
The current pandemic sweeping the nation has forced the cancelation of many events, much to the chagrin of the local community as well as those who throw said events.
The same was set to happen to the I Madonnari Festival, an annual festival that benefits the Children’s Creative Project in Santa Barbara.
As more and more sanctions came down about large gatherings, Kathy Koury, the executive director of the Children’s Creative Project, thought that there was no way the festival would go on.
“And then different people at different points started telling me ‘Well, what if we do this online?’” Ms. Koury recalled.
Just like that, the idea was sparked. And, now weeks later, during Memorial Day weekend, the I Madonnari Festival is alive and thriving, with artists drawing with chalk pastels on individual driveways for the festival’s sponsors.
“I just keep saying it’s like throwing a perfect deck of cards into the air,” Ms. Koury said with a laugh.
“But I think it’s really good to keep the spirit of the festival alive, because I know that the community appreciates it so much. And I was thrilled that the artists all wanted to do it.”
Ms. Koury was also particularly happy to receive the continued support from the festival’s major sponsors including the Loreto Plaza Shopping Center, the Santa Barbara Bowl, Yardi, Daniel & Mandy Hochman, Community West Bank, NS Ceramic, Montecito Bank & Trust, Village Properties Realtors, V3 Printing, and Weidl Construction.
“They are the reason this festival is possible. It’s amazing, and we also continue to have a good number of street painting sponsors,” Ms. Koury said.
One of the paintings currently being made is a 12-foot by 50-foot rendering of Thomas Hart Benton’s 1947 allegorical painting, “Achelous and Hercules.”
The three artists are Sharyn Chan, Ann Hefferman and Jay Schwartz.
Ms. Hefferman said that painting the classic work has been something that they have “had in mind” but with the event usually taking place at the Santa Barbara Mission, there was never enough space to draw the full rendering.
“Funny enough, the pandemic gave us the opportunity to draw it in full size,” Ms. Hefferman said.
Ms. Hefferman said she misses the camaraderie the festival draws every year and the human interaction involved, but is happy to just have the opportunity to be drawing during such a tough time.
“It allows you to focus on something other than the pandemic and hopefully the image will excite people,” Ms. Hefferman said.
While all three artists might feel tired and sore at the end of the day, Ms. Hefferman said it’s all worth it because “these are my friends, all of them, and it’s really nice to hang out with them.”
All three have been artists for well over a decade and are friends, as Ms. Hefferman said, making working on a project this size that much more fun.
“Working with my friends is really the most exciting part for me,” Ms. Chan said.
“I do a lot of stuff on my own, but whenever we do a collaborative, it has always been the funnest thing. You just feel much more connected working in a group.”
The three friends have been working on the painting since Thursday and continue to make daily progress, a very satisfying feeling.
“It’s pretty exciting because the very first day when we first laid out the square, you’re kind of standing at one end like ‘wow, that is a big space,’” Ms. Chan said. “You’re thinking ‘oh, we have to fill this entire space’ but then now on day three, it’s like ‘wow we got a lot done.’ It’s pretty exciting seeing it all kind of just happen.”
In fact, standing up on the roof of their unannounced location, seeing the painting come together every day has been the best part for Ms. Chan and for the rest of the group.
For Mr. Schwartz, he is very happy with the progress of the painting thus far.
“It’s a good project and I think we’re doing a good job and I am pretty proud of where we’re at and how it all looks. I think it’s going well,” Mr. Shwartz said.
Each artist is working on an individual part of the painting and Mr. Shwartz said it really just came naturally to the group of who would be doing what parts.
“And we are all trading off too. Sharyn will do some figures, I will do some leaves, Ann will do what she does and in the end it will all come together to be one big piece,” he said.
Mr. Schwartz admitted that the painting could be very challenging because of how large it is and how detailed it is, but said that overall it has just been a great time. It also requires a great deal of patience.
“I’m kind of happy with the process and less focused on the product. I like to be out here for five days, getting to do what we do and like Ann said, taking our mind off of what’s going on and being able to focus on something and not be locked in a house,” Mr. Schwartz said.
The painting will be finished on May 25 and the updates to the painting can be seen daily online at https://ccp.sbceo.org/i-madonnari/welcome. Other paintings for the I Madonnari Festival will also be posted to the website.
“It’s just beautiful to see artists come together and work so hard and so carefully and consistently through three days or more to create these beautiful drawings that will fade with the weather. That’s what I love about it, it’s the creative process, the concentration, the attention,” Ms. Koury said.
“There’s this kind of atmosphere that you don’t experience anywhere else, where people are creating on the ground and people are watching them do this.”