As our young Company revs up for what will be our busiest and most profitable month yet, I am reminded of all the time I spent volunteering my time as an artist. Whether for a street painting festival for charity, or creating a painting for a friend or acquaintance for mere pennies. Certainly, every one of those projects, and there were many, prepared me for what we are doing today and I am grateful for the opportunities to hone my skills and become the artist I am today. I will say, however, that the trend that we’ve set (and I see ‘we’ because our community of street painters is many) is destroying the potential for artists to be appreciated and compensated for their talents. The fact that we are willing to create an artwork for virtually no compensation is setting the standard for our own futures as creatives. Not a day goes by that I do not see an artists struggling, being taken advantage of, and giving their talents away for free, only to wish they were able to make a living as an artist.
About 11 years ago, I visited a little town in Mantova, Italy, called Grazie. This quaint little town has a church with a taxidermy alligator hanging from the ceiling, a lake with the biggest most stunning water lotus I’ve ever seen, and once a year, it is home to a little festival called Incontro Nazionale Madonnari – The original street painting festival. Irresistible for a young street painter who always dreamed of traveling the world, I had to go. To enter this event, it was important to send a letter to the association of Madonnari, asking for a humble invitation to paint in their festival. Once there I was instantly in love with not only the art form that I already had an affinity for, but also the amazing people and culture that keep it alive. I can go into vivid detail about the magical 24 hours of this event and the even more magical moment I won a gold medal for my street painting, but for points sake, I will take you to the end of this most memorable event. Following the festival’s awards ceremony, 200 hot, dirty, hungry, and exhausted Madonnari stood in line to receive their painting stipend. Each and every artist! Young, old, professional, amateur, winner, or looser, was handed a small white envelope containing compensation for their days work, from the city, and a velvet sachet with a souvenir bronze medallion marking your participation in the festival. What I saw was an incredible amount of respect for these artists and their talents that spanned the entire village and country for that matter.
So… What happened when this art form was brought to the U.S.? I’ll tell you in my next post. Off to paint!