Imagination is more important than knowledge! Albert Einstein
As an arts educator, I have repeated Einstein’s quote hundreds of times. The arts are very important in the development of every child. Despite critical evidence that arts education benefits student academic achievement, social skills, motivation to learn, and positive school environment, the arts have slowly disappeared from many of our schools. Many nonprofit organizations across the United States have been formed in the past 30+ years to address this and are doing amazing work. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with one outstanding organization, Youth in Arts, based in Northern California. Generally, arts education organizations have a tougher time securing funding than nonprofits focusing on health, human needs and the underserved. When I first became involved with Youth in Arts I realized they were no exception, funding was a challenge.
The performance art of street painting is providing organizations and cities with a vehicle to raise funds, promote business and community.
I was first introduced to street painting in 1992 and Youth in Arts presented its first Italian Street Painting Festival in 1994. The event was designed as both a community outreach program and a fundraiser. We chose San Rafael, California, as the host city. San Rafael was in the midst of a major redevelopment planning process, and, after some research, I came to the conclusion that it would be perfect for the city to showcase this art form. I knew it was an ideal event for Youth in Arts. The Festival was an immediate success and is now one of the premier street painting festivals worldwide.
Hundreds of businesses are directly involved each year. Over 400 volunteers work the event. Approximately 400 student and professionals paint the streets, and if you include Children’s Avenue artists, add another 1,500 to the count. Nearly 60,000 visitors attend each year. These numbers just show how the unique art form of street painting is capturing the hearts the community. People love watching the artist create. For centuries we have gone to museums to view the finished work. However, it is rare for the public to have an opportunity to see a visual artist during the creative process. Plus, the artists love the interaction with the public. It is a visual performance art that has captivated audiences around the world.
Street painting originated in Italy, as did the first street painting festival in 1973. Although street painters and street painting festivals are fairly well entrenched in Europe, the popularity of the art form seems strongest in the United States. There are thousands of street painters and dozens of festivals around the country, from the very small held at a local school to the very large that feature major entertainment and much more. The variety and style of each is a topic in itself. Because of this popularity, several U.S. festival organizers and promoters have been asked to introduce the art form to other parts of the world – most recently Japan, China, and Mexico. In every case the captivation of the audience is the same, people just absolutely love watching the process!
The art form is a perfect vehicle for advertising and promotion.
The popularity of this art form is also becoming entrenched in the world of advertising, business promotion, and community building, outside of the festival arena. Opportunities are boundless and the art form is growing and expanding. The early years featured simple images created with stones or chalks. Today illusionary and 3-D imagery created with hand-made pastels are gaining popularity. Where will the next generation take this performance art form?
Imagination is, in general, the power and process of producing mental images and ideas. Wikipedia