Editor’s Pick: I Madonnari Festival

Tom Meaney, courtesy I Madonnari.

Tom Meaney, courtesy I Madonnari.

Memorial Day weekend brings a beloved Santa Barbara tradition to town—the colorful I Madonnari Festival of Italian street painting in front of the Old Mission (May 28–30). The otherwise drab grey pavement blossoms with vibrant pastels for these three days, as artists create dazzling works that delight visitors year after year. Not only is the festival beautiful, but all proceeds benefit Children’s Creative Project, a nonprofit arts education program that serves 50,000 children in more than 100 schools with visual and performing arts workshops and performances throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties
For more information visit imadonnarifestival.com.

—Leslie Dinaberg

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

National Charity League of Santa Barbara, Senior Presents Class of 2014

For more than 50 years, National Charity League of Santa Barbara (NCL) has brought mothers and daughters together working on philanthropic projects. This year’s NCL Senior Presents takes place on April 6 at 5:30 p.m. at The Fess Parker Resort.

The graduating seniors of 2014, along with their mothers, gave an impressive 5,856 volunteer hours over their six years in National Charity League to local nonprofits in Santa Barbara.  Nonprofits included Dream Foundation, Safety Town, Special Olympics, CADA, Storyteller Children’s Center, Children’s Creative Project, Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Ridley Tree Education Center and more.

National Charity League Senior Class of 2014 (courtesy photo)

National Charity League Senior Class of 2014 (courtesy photo)

The graduating senior girls, known as “Ticktockers”  pictured include: (Top row from left to right) Sara Ashlin Doyle, Grace Copeland, Emma Eccles, Grace Jordan Woolf, Britten Barbara Ann Vilander, Clara Mae Madsen, Julia Rene’e McClintock; (Middle row from left to right) Madeleine Wall, Milana Rose Skiff, Sammi Schurmer, Rachel Rene Fay, Susan Madeline Marquis, Nicole Kristine-Marie Larson, Brenna Claire Geiger; (Bottom row from left to right) Hannah Rose Brisby, Olivia Jane Pickett, Olivia Belle Caesar, Kayla Zola, Caterina Jacquelyn Lafitte and Madeline Grace Frohling.

Says Ticktocker, Milana Skiff,  who has volunteered an inspiring 921 hours, “the Oncology Department at Cottage Hospital is my favorite place to volunteer.  I love it and everyone there is so kind.  It’s a good experience for me and because of it I will pursue a career as an oncologist in college.  My mom and I have also volunteered in the pasta booth at the I Madonnari every year for the past six years and we really enjoy it.  It gives us the chance to participate in community service together.”

Ticktocker Kayla Zola and Patroness Belinda Zola enjoyed volunteering together making flower arrangements for the Dream Foundation.  Belinda shares, “it feels more like we are sharing a hobby than anything else.  Kayla is very creative, and I have learned so much from her about just letting go and having fun!  Not only are we able to bring some joy to terminally ill people, but we can also share the joy of our efforts with other volunteers, with each other and ourselves!  This is just one example of how NCL has helped teach our three daughters how to get involved and give back to their community while strengthening mother, daughter and sibling relationships”

The NCL Senior Presentation Event is an opportunity for the girls not only be recognized for their service, but it is also the chance for them to share how these experiences have shaped their lives.  “It has been an privilege to work with the Class of 2014 NCL Ticktockers to help them achieve these outstanding goals,” say Luann Caesar and Ann Marquis,  co-chairs for the event.  “It has been an honor to work alongside our daughters for the past six years, to see them grow and mature while giving back through volunteer work to the the Santa Barbara community.”

Founded in 1962, the Santa Barbara chapter of NCL currently supports the works of 19 local philanthropies, often providing a valuable volunteer workforce for local organizations such as Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, Direct Relief International, Santa Barbara Public Library,Unity Shoppe, Cottage Hospital, McKinley School and many more.  The local chapter is an “hours only” chapter, meaning that members donate their time only, and do not raise funds to assist the charities.   Each mother and daughter member is required to fulfill a minimum of both league and philanthropy hours, or community service.  Each Ticktocker is part of an age-level class that conducts a monthly meeting, has guest speakers on various age-appropriate topics, and often does an off-site philanthropy project as a part of their meeting.   For more information click here.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on March 20, 2014.

Igniting a Love of Art

Originally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS magazine.

Originally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS magazine.

“The arts support learning in academic subject areas by helping children develop higher-level thinking skills like imagination, problem solving and collaboration.”
—Kathy Koury

VISITORS COME FROM far and wide to feast their eyes on the beautiful chalk creations that come to life at I Madonnari, the Italian street painting festival held each Memorial Day
weekend at Santa Barbara Mission. But not all are aware that this signature event is the primary fundraiser for Children’s Creative Project (CCP), Santa Barbara County Education Office’s nonprofit arts education program.

From its humble beginnings in 1972 as a volunteer-led after-school art program at Franklin
Elementary, each school year CCP now provides more than 60,000 students in 110 schools in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties with performances by touring artists and another 30,000 students with resident artist workshops and hands-on instruction.

Originally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS magazine.

Originally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS magazine.

“What’s really important to me is that these world class performers are made available to the kids and that they get to have a real theater experience.”

— Dian Pulverman

It’s a unique partnership that brings young people together with professional artists, who band together with educators through public support, grants and fundraising from a variety of sources to offer students an array of art experiences.

“We want people to appreciate that it’s important for children to experience the joy and inspiration that you can find working in the arts or seeing professional artists perform,” says Kathy Koury, a former dancer who was one of the original volunteers teaching at Franklin in the 1970s and has stayed involved with CCP since its formal inception as a nonprofit in 1974, taking over as executive director in 1977.

Koury is modest about her accomplishments, crediting much of the program’s success to the support of William J. Cirone, Superintendent, Santa Barbara County Education Office. She will, however, admit with some pride that since 1981, in collaboration with UCSB Arts & Lectures and Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation Education Outreach, CCP has produced major performance events for local children every school year. For example, last fall approximately 5,500 children saw the Yamato Wadaiko Drummers of Japan perform at Santa Barbara Bowl, and during the 2008/09 school year, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed at Arlington Theatre for thousands of assembled school children. This is often the students’ first exposure to a live professional performance in a quality venue.

“It was my dream to bring Wynton Marsalis and Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra to Santa Barbara,” says Koury, who did so in 2002. “(He is) so great in the way he communicates with children about music. He can break it down into some of its basic elements and has such an interesting way of doing that by bringing in music history and using his orchestra to illustrate the points he is trying to make.”

Originally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS magazine.

Originally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS magazine.

Other notable performances include Valerie Huston Dance Theater, Soweto Street Beat, Bella Lewitzky Dance Company, Korean Classical Music and Dance Company, Claddagh Dance Company, Mariachi Festival and Jane Goodall.

“What’s really important to me is that these world-class performers are made available to the kids and that they get to have a real theater experience,” says Board Vice President Dian Pulverman, who works year-round to plan I Madonnari, along with Board President Phil Morreale; staff members Koury, Diane Elsner, Lisa Soldo and Marilyn Zellet; and board members Karyn Yule, Micheline Hughes, Tracy Beard, Beverly Clay, Jan Clevinger, Cynthia DiMatteo, Maura Harding, Bryan Kerner, Kristen Nostrand, Christi Vior and Robin Yardi.

Prior to joining the board in 2004, Pulverman was part of CCP’s Cultural Arts Network, where representatives from local schools (primarily parent volunteers) meet to coordinate performances, plan assemblies and decide on traveling artists. CCP does much of the advance legwork, screening hundreds of different touring groups, pre-negotiating fees and providing an arts catalog of 180 different touring groups that offer educational and cultural performances and often provide study guides to tie their performances into the curriculum. Schools then work together to “block book” discounted performances, which are further discounted by an “arts credit” that each public school receives annually from CCP.

CCP also produces a touring artist showcase onstage at Crane School, where artists are invited to perform short demonstrations.

“The showcase was a fabulous way for us to be introduced to the schools in the Santa Barbara area,” says Phil Gold, a member of The Perfect Gentlemen, a vocal quartet. “The theater was just the right size, allowing the artists to make eye contact with people in the audience.”

Not only do local children benefit, but artists ranging from BOXTALES, State Street Ballet, Abalaye African Dance Ensemble, Konrad Kono and Dancing Drum to Santa Barbara Symphony, VocalPoint, PCPA and Branden Aroyan also gain from their connection to CCP.

“Part of our mission is to provide work for artists,” says Koury. “The way we look at it is we try to hire professional artists so they have their own career as professional artists but then part-time they can teach and interact with children.”

With financial support from CCP, these artists work in residence teaching in classrooms (this part of the program is coordinated by Shelley Triggs), perform at assemblies and, in the case of storyteller Michael Katz, do both. Katz has been affiliated with CCP for decades, beginning with teaching juggling at Open Alternative School. He now works with about 20 local elementary schools each year. “It’s really quite remarkable,” he says. “Every kid in the school basically knows who I am, which is a really beautiful aspect—that kids become so familiar, they grow up believing that a storyteller is part of a school. That will be something that, as adults, they will value—a person who tells a good story is valuable and the lessons in stories are valuable.”

As an artist in residence, he works in classrooms for about four days at a time. “Each kid will get up in front of the class at least once—for some classrooms, what they really need to learn about is listening, and in another classroom, it’s about vocal projection, and in another classroom, it may be shyness about physical movement,” he says.

Anything to do with art is “a very positive time in a child’s school day. It encourages them to come to school, to stay in school, and it’s non-judgmental. It’s an area where they can excel when they might not excel in some academic area,” explains Koury. “Plus the arts
support learning in academic subject areas and help children develop higher level thinking skills like imagination, problem solving, sequencing patterns, reflection and revision, and collaboration. These are incredibly important life skills, and they are so easily learned and
experienced—children learn these by doing the arts.”

Santa Barbara Seasons Spring 2010 coverOriginally published in the spring 2010 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

To read the story as it originally appeared in print click here: Spring 2010 childrens creative project