Out of love

My heart was filled with surprise and joy at the same time. The floor was filled with colorful chalk paintings, with colors so vivid as Van Gough's farms glittering under the sun, with themes so diverse that my imagination could open its wings and fly — fly from this land to the next, from our age to the Renaissance, and explore the depths of time and cultures.

It's busy, as far as my eyes can see… artists kneeling on the floor and working hard like honey bees to complete their flights of imagination. And people like me, who are enjoying every single second of this activity. See

This is the “I Madonnari Italian Street Painting” — an annual event held in Santa Barbara, California, in the plaza of the Old Mission. Using chalk for street paintings has been an Italian tradition since the 16th century. This art form is enjoying a renaissance in cities throughout Western Europe and the U.S.

Amazed by all the chalk paintings on the floor that would be gone in a couple of days, I approach one of the artists. He is busy with a big picture of different South American symbols. “It is my first time here. Can you tell me how you guys come here and paint? How does this event work?” I ask.

He looks at me, a young man with tanned skin, strong elbows and a hat. “We come here out of love. We kneel on the floor and pour out our emotions onto this dark land — to help, only out of love.”

I am confused. This palce is packed with people and that paintings are amazing but I cannot understand how they can help any one in any way except the artist himself — if he's getting paid!

“What kind of help?” I murmur.

“The Old Mission plaza will be subdivided into 200 pavement squares, sponsored by businesses, organizations and individuals. Then local artists volunteer to become Madonnari, or street painters, to fill these pavement canvases with our own unique inspiration. All the money gathered will go to the children. That's what we all want, don't you agree?”

He turns and looks at the crowd of painters, shining brightly with that circle of love surrounding them. I thank him and walk away. Crawling slowly among these love bees with a heart feeling lighter and lighter… only out of love.

Thanks to Farbod Mehr for helping me with the photos

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