Italian Street Painting in San Rafael, CA – 24 & 25 June 2017

What could be better than music in the air and art at your feet both sharing the sunlight of a summer’s day? Begun by Youth in Arts in 1994, the Italian Street Painting Festival has been an event in San Rafael, California for 23 years. Youth in Arts provides a remarkable spectrum of art classes & workshops in painting, dance, storytelling and music among other arts. The street painting is amazing both for the beauty, power & sophistication of professional artists and the remarkable art of children – full of insight, whimsey and wonderful naiveté. This is a link to the website for the Kerrville (Texas) Chalk Festival. It has one of the best brief descriptions of street painting – chalk art festivals.
I was also amazed to realize how many street painting celebrations occur in California.

Here’s a Vimeo video of the two days showing the beginnings and some of the completions of these splendid, ephemeral artistic salutes. The music is J. S. Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578 maybe sounding just a bit different in a jazz version by the Jacques Loussier Trio.

Italian Street Painting, San Rafael, Califorrnia – June 24 & 25, 2017

Street painting has “a long tradition in Europe and is thought to have originated in Italy during the 16th century. Italian mandonnari were vagabond artists noted for a life of travel between festivals, and were the visual arts counterpart of minstrels. They often lived solely from coins tossed onto or next to their drawing as homage to the Madonna and possibly their skill.” “Parallel to this tradition in Italy, street painters began appearing in London in the mid-19th century. These artists were called “screevers, a term that refers to the written message that generally accompanied their works.” You’ll perhaps recall Dick Van Dyke as the chimney sweep, singer and street artist, Bert, in “Mary Poppins”. Kurt Wenner is the dean of street painting and the “ambassador” that brought it to the United States when he introduced it at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1982. It was established at the Santa Barbara Mission in 1985. He is known as the “Da Vinci” of street art. From the twistedsifter website: He was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and produced his first commissioned mural at 16 and by 17 was earning his living as a graphic artist. He attended both the Rhode Island School of Design and Art Center College of Design. Later, he was employed by NASA as an illustrator to create conceptual paintings of future space projects. In 1982 he pulled-up stakes leaving NASA, sold all of his belongings and moved to Italy to study classic Renaissance art. He has become famous as the master of 3D Sidewalk Chalk Art. Along with this huge trove his website and blog stretch the imagination.

The theme of this year’s festival was as you might surmise, 50 years since 1967, “The Summer of Love”. Toward the end of day, I shot a short video of the scene with “The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius” as background. The bell of the San Rafael Mission chimes as the sun begins to set and everyone takes a last walk-around starting to realize that all this effort, all this beauty will be washed away tonight like some Buddhist Monks destroying their mandala – maybe not so permanent as we’d thought.


Gary Yost, Marin’s and Mt. Tam’s amazing filmmaker comes through once again with this insightful journey collaborating with artist Genna Panzarella, “a healing tribute to Marin’s mystical Mount Tamalpais.” MOUNTAINS MADE OF CHALK, FALL INTO THE SEA, EVENTUALLY Subtitled – “A Meditation on Impermanence”

And from Gary Yost, FUN ON THE MIDWAY @ MARIN COUNTY FAIR from 2016

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