Madonnari Arts Festival

September 7-10, 2018

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 fourth annual Madonnari Arts Festival, September 7-10, 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 “Respect.” 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.

Thefour-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.

Professional and student artists will become i madonnari for the celebration. Little Italy proudly hosts Madonnari from around the globe, including Vera Bugatti, ToMo, Flavio Coppola, Francesca Arsi, Carlos Alberto Garcia, Andrea Starinieri and Jennifer Chapparo and Baltimore’s own Maestro Madonnaro, Michael Kirby. Anthony Cappetto, known for combining 4d technology with 3d art, will also be featured among the exciting roster of participating visual artists. The street art will be judged by professional artists.


Local, national and international performing artists will participate in a series of indoor and outdoor events sponsored by the Little Italy restaurants. Laura Norris, founder and instructor of Mando for Kids, will lead her young Baltimore City musicians as they play Italian and contemporary music on bowlback mandolins. These emerging artists will be followed by the extraordinary musicians who comprise the Baltimore Mandolin Quartet. Actors from the Annapolis Shakespeare Company under the direction of Sally Boyett, Artistic Director , will perform in commedia dell’ arte scenes to be staged in and outside of the Little Italy restaurants. Roving opera singers will also perform in and outside the restaurants.

Click here to read a Q&A with Madonnari Festival artist, Ever Galvez.

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.

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