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June 20, 2018
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A chance to see both local and world renowned artists at work

  • Cotati artist Arnold Shimizu poses next to his creation at last years' Italian Street Painting event in San Rafael. Terry Scussel

  • The work of Cotati artist Arnold Shimizu at the Italian Street Painting event in San Rafael in 2017. Joy Phonenix

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
June 15, 2018

On June 23 and 24, several local artists will be represented at the Italian Street Painting event in San Rafael, an event that has been going strong for over 20 years and brings artists from all over the world. Over a hundred of the world’s top Madannori (street painters) will be represented including Cotati’s Arnold Shimizu, Christine Pasadis from Rohnert Park who participates with her two daughters, Lisa Jones from Cotati and Mark Edwards from Cotati. In addition, Rohnert Park’s Scott Weaver, creator of the infamous “Weaver’s Winter Wonderland” Christmas house and toothpick sculptor, will be displaying some of his toothpick art including pieces currently on display at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. 

The art of street painting and street painters known as Madonnari, dates back to 13th century Italy. While there is disagreement of where exactly in Italy the tradition first started, experts generally agree that after World War II, Italy tried to eliminate the art form because it was considered an image of poverty. However, the genre prevailed and in 1973 the first street painting event, Incontro Nazionale dei Madonnari, took place in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy. The event provided a legal venue for the Madonnari still painting the streets and sidewalks of Italy. The competition is still held every August 15 to this day and has since grown from a few Italian artists to over 150 artists participating from around the world. In 1987 the U.S. hosted its first street painting festival in Santa Barbara, California and finally in 1994 the art form was brought to San Rafael by Sue and Joe Carlomagno. 

Arnold Shimizu from Cotati has been participating in the event every year since its inaugural date in 1994. This year he will be painting a 12’ x 12’ plot.

“I fell in love with the festival atmosphere and the people,” says Shimizu. “A lot of us as artists work in our studios and we work behind a computer. We don’t have a lot of interaction with people. When we’re sitting on the square doing our work we’re able to hear comments as we’re working from people walking by. We’re able to strike up conversations with people who are viewing the work and are curious about what we are doing or want to know more about us. That gives us a chance to make a personal connection with the people who are viewing our work.”

All work done on the street is created with chalk pastels that is washed away the evening of the last day of the event. The slipperiness that can occur from the painting can cause safety issues for vehicles once the streets are reopened. However, Shimizu often hears comments about the sadness of the painting and all the work being washed away at 

the end of the weekend.

“I have a Buddhist response to that,” says Shimizu. “Everything is temporary and we need to appreciate it when it’s here.”

This year the theme for the Italian Street Painting Marin event is “Wonders of Space & Time.” Shimizu is designing his original artwork around an old creation story involving the formation of the Milky Way.

“My idea is to depict a scene from an Asian folktale,” says Shimizu. “It’s told in China, Korea and Japan. It is the creation of the Milky Way and it is a love story between celestial deities.”

To coincide with the “Wonders of Space & Time” theme, local Rohnert Park artist and toothpick sculptor Scott Weaver is creating a sculpture of the lunar module out of toothpicks. This is his first time participating in the event. The piece is about 20 inches high and 16 inches wide and has taken Weaver over 120 hours to build. 

“This is probably one of the most detailed pieces I’ve made,” says Weaver. “The upper housing has so many different weird angles. It’s amazing - the housing where the astronauts were, the gas tanks, the landing legs, there are all these tiny reflectors, two jet packs and 16 little cone shapes that were really hard to make. It took over 12 hours just to make those.”

Weaver is donating the lunar module sculptor to be auctioned off at the event. It is the first time any of his sculptures will be sold.

“I’m really honored that they would want me to be a guest artist,” says Weaver. “I get to show my work and show what I do and how I make things. Somebody might get an idea to build something out of what I tell them.”

Italian Street Painting Marin is a community outreach program of EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases and supports quality arts-based projects in Marin County. EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, a national 501c3 non-profit that is headquartered in Marin County, is dedicated to accelerating biotech innovation for rare disease treatments through science-driven public policy. The foundation believes that bridging science and the arts enhances health, inspires hope and changes lives. All event proceeds benefit Italian Street Painting Marin and their dedication to supporting arts in the community.

More than just seeing amazing artwork from over a hundred artists, attendees to the event are also treated to live music from Bay Area bands, face painting, interactive STEAM projects through the Mobile Maker Club and many food trucks and winery and brewery booths to choose from. In addition, for $10 children ages 2-12 can practice their own creativity with a 2’ x 2” artist square and box of professional chalk pastels they can take home. A raffle and silent auction of original artwork created by the world-renowned Madonnari and wine packages rounds out the event. 

The Italian Street Painting event takes place on 5th and A streets in downtown San Rafael, walking distance from the SMART San Rafael station.  Ticket prices are $10 general admission each day, 2-day passes are $15, and children 12 and under are free. For more information visit www.italianstreetpaintingmarin.org or call 415-884-2423.