Madonnari Arts Festival

The 2016 Madonnari festival is over. Please check back for information on the 2017 Festival.

This fall, the streets of Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood come alive with color, beauty and tradition. The city will welcome approximately 50 visual artists to the second annual Madonnari Arts Festival, September 30-October 2, who will bring their talents to South High and Stiles Streets.

The inspiration for this exciting event – the art of street painting – comes from Italy, in a tradition that dates back to the 16th century. Historically, i madonnari were wandering artists who travelled from village to village to create paintings at festivals and on holy days to earn a living. Many of the artists depicted religious images in their work, thus earning their name.

A similar festival was first introduced to the United States in the 1980s in Santa Barbara, California; today, Madonnari festivals have become a common celebration throughout America and the world. Modern artists use the street as their canvas and chalk pastels as their medium, creating traditional and expressionistic works of art that are one-of-a-kind and out-of-this-world.

The theme for this year’s Madonnari Festival in Baltimore is “The Movement of Change.” Both professional and student artists – local, national and international – will become i madonnari for the celebration, creating breathtaking 2-D and 3-D chalk pastel art directly on the streets of Little Italy that will be judged by professional artists. Prizes in two categories – traditional and contemporary – will be awarded. Baltimore’s own Maestro Madonnaro and muralist, Michael Kirby, will also give a lecture on the Madonnari tradition of street painting during the festival.

The three-day event will also feature Italian food, wine, music, theater and dance, with events taking place both outdoors and indoors. Festival highlights also include the PNC Children’s Chalk Center, where young artists can express their creativity alongside the masters; bocce lessons at the bocce court on Stiles Street; concerts and performances; the Baltimore Museum of Art Outpost’s onsite mobile museum; and more.

This year, artists will also participate in the “Going Vertical” community mural project before and after the festival throughout the month of October. Permanent murals will be created on the walls of participating businesses and residences throughout Little Italy in celebration of the Italian heritage of innovation and creativity, thus turning the neighborhood into an outdoor art gallery that can be enjoyed all year long.

Click here to read a Q&A with Madonnari Festival artist, Tomoteru "Tomo" Saito.

The Madonnari Arts Festival and all events taking place throughout the event are free and open to the public. The festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.

For more information, visit