Hi Everyone from Anthony and Wendy at Blog Now on streetpainting.tv. The word 'Grazie' in the street painting art community means an annual event (street painting art competition) held annually in August, drawing the best artists in the street painting world to create beautiful art at the Sanctuary during the Feast of the Assumption. We are happy and honored to share some historical background offered to us by Bishop Egidio Caporello on the Grazie International Street Painting Competition, the oldest modern street painting competition held each year in Grazie, Italy as well as a series of new events for readers to look forward to this year. Here are some notes from the Bishop for our readers. Enjoy.
The story of street-painting in Grazie starts in 1973, when Gilberto Boschesi, researcher of folk costumes and traditions, decided to give recognition and value to the art of Madonnari, who had always been present at the fair of Grazie, individually and spontaneously.
On August 15, 1973, for the first time public authorities and associations called together in the courtyard of the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin the so-called "Pavement painters". On that occasion a group of journalists and art critics, such as Enzo Tortora, gave them a more appropriate title that of "Madonnari", as the folk tradition called painters and peddlers of sacred images. That title suited with their characteristic painting popular sacred images of Christian inspiration, with simple colored chalks, predominantly on the pavement of the church squares and sanctuaries during religious feasts, fairs and festivals. The meeting and the pictorial competition, which determine who can claim the title of "Master Madonnaro" and offer the winner for one year, the trophy of Madonnaro, takes place every year on August 15, the feast of the Assumption, in the context of the ancient Fair which has been held in the same place since the foundation of the Sanctuary (1399).
The event was recognized by the President of the Italian Republic and by the President of the Region Lombardy. The Ministry of Culture was interested in it in order to safeguard an expression of folk art in danger of extinction. At the beginning, few Madonnari attended the competition, but over the years, they reached over 200 and among them there were many foreigners: Europeans, Americans, and Japanese. There is a significant presence of women. The event, which over the years has become an international art festival, was publicized by the national and international press and documented by Italian television networks, by the "Associated Press", by "National Geographic" and by “ABC ". In August it becomes a most unique outdoor laboratory.
This is a display of skill and creativity vanishing after a few days or even a few hours, when the rain falls; it is an example of ephemeral art that can be fixed only through the camera lens. The fair attracts in Grazie every year from one hundred to two hundred thousand people in 2 or 3 days. The festival begins on the night of August 14th, when, after the blessing of the chalk by the Bishop of Mantua, artists begin to paint and ends August 15 in the evening, with the jury's verdict.
The Madonnari were organized in association with the official name of AMI: Madonnaris’ Italian Association. Later on, they formed many other groups under various names. Now the CIM: Italian Centre of Madonnari has the task of saving the correspondence, the pictures and other material documenting the history, besides all, files with the names of competitors over the years, and also some significant chalk works for various periods to compare the evolution of "manners" to paint, the various masters who have come and gone over time, leaving evidence of an ancient but always present art, which is a spontaneous expression of figurative aesthetic of immediate emotions.
A key moment in the history of madonnari was the apostolic visit of Pope John Paul II in 1991. On that occasion, eight artists, among them the great Kurt Wenner, painted an oversized Last Judgment of Michelangelo, 81 square meters of art, to welcome the Pope, who signed it with his own autograph using a white chalk. Now the asphalt fragment with the Pope’s authentic signature is preserved in the Sanctuary.
In May 2011, twenty years after that extraordinary event, the Madonnari were invited to paint a religious subject on the courtyard and it was a masterpiece.
Picking up a widespread and instinctive idea to give continuity to a similar experience, a few months ago, I launched the proposal not to limit the presence of madonnari to the competition in August, but to extend it to the whole year.
Consequently, in respect of the Year of Faith, proclaimed by the Pope Benedict XVI, together with local authorities, we decided to organize a series of events:
1. An exhibition of cribs and Nativities for Christmas,
2. An exhibition of paintings, sculptures and chalk panels for Easter on the theme “Crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ”,
3. an exhibition in May with the whole village decorated with paintings and flowers,
4. the traditional competition in August.
In December we were really surprised by the solidarity of artists (madonnari, painters and sculptors) and by the enthusiasm of the local population who accepted our proposal with joy and emotion. The free service of volunteers gave a precious contribution to the success of the initiative. Developing the experience of this exhibition, we are thinking of Easter and hope to achieve the same result as Christmas.
Grazie is a very nice little village of about 600 inhabitants, on the lake of Mantua. The most important monument and centre of it is the catholic Sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary with its large square and its fascinating artistic elements (statues, chapels, votive symbols, etc.).
The Madonnari who come here from all over the world breathe the atmosphere pervading this enchanting place. Here, everything is religion and only religious subjects can be painted, nothing else. The Madonnari are perfectly conscious of this peculiarity. While painting, they won’t be disturbed because they’re praying. Here painting becomes a form of prayer. It is a deep, high, absolute, joyful prayer.
Anthony Cappetto and Wendy Stum are bloggers of Blog Now on streetpainting.tv and co-founders of Innovative Street Painting Group, a street painting art and media company bringing the art form to a new generation of artists, festivals, directors and fans worldwide. #Blognowonstreetpaintingtv