About Us

LIM2015-poster for 2016EVENT SUMMARY.  This 3-day cultural event will showcase elaborate chalk paintings created by artists directly on the streets of Little Italy. The event will be enhanced with Italian food, wine, music, theater and dance in a celebration of the contemporary renaissance of Baltimore’s historic Italian neighborhood.

Our model for this event originated in Italy in a tradition that dates back to the 16th century — the art of street painting. Historically, i madonnari were wandering artists in Italy who traveled village to village to earn their livelihood at various festivals and on various holy days. The artists often depicted religious images in their paintings, thus earning their name. Such a festival was first introduced in America in Santa Barbara, California in the 1980s. Today, street painters create breathtaking traditional and expressionistic compositions using the street as their canvas and chalk pastels as their medium.

EVENT PROGRAM.  Artists will create chalk paintings on Little Italy’s South High Street for the three event days (September 8-10). The street will come alive as it is transformed into fine works of art. The theme of the art is “Freedom.”

Professional and student artists will become i madonnari for the celebration. Little Italy proudly hosts  Madonnari from around the globe, including  ToMo, Flavio Coppola, Francesca Arsi, Carlos Alberto Garcia, Andrea Starinieri, Ketty Grossi, Ever Galvez and  Jennifer Chapparo and Baltimore’s own Maestro Madonnaro, Michael KirbyAnthony Cappetto, known for combining 4d technology with  3d art, will also be featured among the exciting roster of participating visual artists. Artists are welcome to participate in a juried competition.

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.  The Park School a cappella ensembles, The Eightnotes and The Vocal Chords will perform on S. High Street. Our roving opera singers, Soprano Kimberly Christie and Baritone Jason Buckwalter will also perform in and outside the restaurants. Festival attendees will also enjoy bluegrass, folk and gypsy jazz performances along S. High Street.

The PNC Children’s Chalk Center, a family Madonnari arts area, will be the site of children’s crafts by Yankee Doodle Crafts and free chalk will be provided to young artists who will be able to draw on the street alongside the masters.

This year the Festival will host a speakers series with topics including the First Amendment and the arts, the historical and contemporary significance of the Madonnari artists, and a workshop for artists new to the street painting genre on 3D chalk drawing at the KOHLER Signature Store that will also serve as the Information Center for artists and attendees and the location where official Festival merchandise will be sold.

All of the foregoing events are free and open to the public.

Other musical events will include a dinner and performance by international jazz vocalist Simona De Rosa and her quartet at the Little Italy Madonnari Arts Festival Kickoff Cabaret the evening of September 7, sponsored by the Associated Italian American Charities and Columbus Celebrations, Inc. at the Cabaret at Germano’s in Little Italy. Ticket proceeds will benefit the funding of the Columbus Day Parade and Madonnari Arts Festival.  Singer-songwriter and participating visual artist, Andrea Carlson, accompanied by her band, the Love Police will charm us with her take on the Great American Songbook and original songs on September 8 in the Cabaret and the Kings of Crownsville will rock the Cabaret on September 9 with original songs and New Orleans jazz and rhythm and blues standards. Festival attendees will be treated to a live rooftop concert above Germano’s PIATTINI in a tribute to The Beatles 1969 concert on the roof of Apple Records provided by Baltimore’s “Fab Five”, The Apple Scruffs. A comprehensive schedule of events will be published on this website and posted in the Little Italy restaurants.

The Festival is made possible by the generous assistance of the members of the Associated Italian American Charities of Maryland and Columbus Celebrations, Inc.  Major sponsors include the Little Italy restaurants and other local businesses, PNC Bank, BGE, an Excelon Company, AvalonBay Communities, Workshop Development, Baltimore Magazine, MidAtlantic Media, LLC (Baltimore Style, Jewish Times, Baltimore’s Child), JMORE, KOHLER Signature Store and Thos Somerville Co., Kaiser Permanente, Flying Dog Brewery,  Banfi Vintners Foundation, VOGA Italia, Folonari Wines, Shanklin Media and the Baltimore LED Art Billboard, the Promotion Center for Little Italy, Baltimore, Miles & Stockbridge, and The Walters Art Museum, Hyatt Place Baltimore, Fairfield Inn and Suites Baltimore/Inner Harbor, Days Inn, Royal Sonesta Harbor Court, Hotel Indigo, Pier V Hotel, Lord Baltimore Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Baltimore Inner Harbor are the Official Festival Hotel Sponsors. The Parking Authority of Baltimore City is the Official Parking Sponsor.

OUR MISSION.  The mission of the festival is to showcase the exceptional talent, camaraderie and creative spirit of Baltimore.  The heritage of the neighborhood of Little Italy is celebrated and artists with new ideas are welcomed in this forward thinking creative community with its enduring traditions.

Friday, September 8, 2017
5 pm – 10 pm

Saturday and Sunday, September 9 and 10, 2017
11am – 10 pm