Saturday, November 17, 2018


The 13th I Madonnari Street Art Festival took place in Puerto Vallarta at the city’s Main Plaza this weekend. This colorful event brings together a variety of local and visiting artists to express themselves using chalk or pastels and it is definitely one of my favorite events of the year. The following will give you a background on what this wonderful annual event is all about and some photographs of the wonderful street art.

Street art chalk artists are most commonly called Madonnari (Madonna in Italian) because they originally created images of Mother Mary, the Madonna, either alone or with her child Jesus, in Italy.

The Italian Madonnari have been traced to the sixteenth century. They were itinerant artists many of whom had been brought into the cities to work on the huge cathedrals. When the work was completed they needed another way to make a living and consequently would often recreate the paintings from the church onto the pavement.

Aware of festivals and holy days held in each province and town these artists traveled to join in the festivities and to make a living from observers who would throw coins if they approved of the artist's work.

For centuries many Madonnari were folk artists reproducing simple images with crude materials such as tiles, coal, and chalk. Some artists such as El Greco would go on to become well known names.

The origins of modern street painting can be traced to Great Britain. Pavement artists were found all over the United Kingdom and by 1890 it was estimated that more than 500 artists were making a full-time living from pavement art in London alone.

The British term for pavement artist is "screever.” The term is derived from the writing style that typically accompanied the works of pavement artists since the 1700s. The term ‘screever’ is most commonly cited as Shakespearean slang dating from around 1500.

The works of screevers often were accompanied by poems and proverbs, lessons on morality, and political commentary on current events. They appealed to both the working people who on the whole could not read or write, but understood visual images, and to the educated members of the middle-classes who appreciated the moral lessons and comments.

It was important for a screever to catch the eye of the “well to do” and in turn attract the pennies donated for their efforts. The first recorded street-painting competition and festival was held in London in 1906.

Madonnari artists were the visual arts equivalent of busking (playing music or otherwise performing for voluntary donations in the street or in subways) and the tradition continued until World War II when for obvious reasons it became impractical to sit in the middle of a street and create art.

After the war, the art of the Madonnari languished, but before it could die out completely a group in the city of Curtatone, Italy decided to revive it. The first I Madonnari festival in Curtatone was held in 1973 with some of the prewar Madonnari among the participating artists.

That was the catalyst for a new generation of "street painters" who traveled from city to city, and festival to festival, creating chalk artwork that hardly lasted longer than the handful of days required to make them.

I find it fascinating to watch the artists creating their amazing work on the Plaza de las Armas in Puerto Vallarta.  And in spite of the warm tropical sun and having people looking over their shoulders they remain focused on their creations. Simply inspirational!

I hope you have the opportunity of visiting the I Madonnari Street Art Festival in Puerto Vallarta which is an annual event held each November.

Until then, you may check out more of the Madonnari street art in my photograph album at the following link:


With my thanks for joining me at Mexico and Beyond:  Laura's Photo Journey and wishing you well wherever your travels take you.  Saludos, Laura

                               And remember, a memory is only a click away!


  1. Thank you for sharing! Loved your blog!!

    1. Many thanks mingoretta for leaving a lovely comment.

  2. Finally got to your blog!! Just loved it!
    Thanks for sharing!!

  3. These chalk artists sure make fantastic creations. It's a pity that I assume their chalk creations cannot be saved permanently by some sort of latex or other preservative. Thanks for sharing the wonderful and varied creations. - Guillermo y Katrina

    1. Now if you could create some kind of long-lasting preservative that might be worth marketing!

  4. Absolutely wonderful and yes, inspiring. Rather amazing ar multiple levels. Thanks!

  5. As always,thank you Vicki,for your inspiring!