Founders Hope to Revive Italian Street Painting Festival

Festival founder and Mill Valley resident Sue Carlomagno and her husband Joe need $120,000 to bring back the popular Italian Street Painting Festival for 2013.


This letter to the editor was written by Sue Carlomagno, founder of the Youth In Arts Italian Street Painting Festival.

June brought back memories of the Youth in Arts Italian Street Painting Festival to my husband Joe and he wrote an editorial for the Marin Independent Journal as his last ditch effort to secure major financial support to bring the festival back. 

In 1992, as president of the board of directors of , I informed Joe shortly after he retired that he would soon have a new job, but wouldn’t get paid. The job was technical director and my “right arm” in helping design and produce the first Youth in Arts Italian Street Painting Festival. Our jobs quickly became a 24-7-365 endeavor that lasted until our retirement in 2007.

We both loved it, it was our passion, and the real payment was the joy it brought to so many. And as Joe mentioned, not only did we love it, thousands of others did too. People constantly ask us if the festival will return - from the talented artists and performers, to the dedicated volunteers, business community and general public - all want it back.

But it takes lots of money! Youth in Arts, Joe and I have tried to secure major financial support. We can’t do it alone, we need the community to step up! In 2011 Autodesk alone stepped up, now the City of San Rafael is trying to help. We need 5 more $20,000 multi-year sponsors before we can begin plans to bring the festival back.

Some History

Youth in Arts produced the Italian Street Painting Festival, and proceeds helped this leading North Bay arts education nonprofit provide students experiences and instruction in the visual and performing arts, and enrich the community with cultural events.

The event, which drew a million visitors since its inception in 1994, was often referred to as San Rafael’s signature event, and was voted the best free event in Marin County. It provided an extraordinary cultural experience for the San Francisco Bay Area, and generated income for downtown businesses.

Some stats:

  • Youth in Arts was financially responsible for every aspect of the event.
  • The festival costs approximately $250,000 in cash and in-kind products and services – from street seal coatings, police, security, tents, staging, staffing, printing, storage, marketing, public relations and much more. Plus, the event was free to the public.
  • All the performers and artists donated their time (except for the featured artists who received a small stipend).
  • The only sources of income were sponsorship, square sales and food, beverage and product sales.
  • Youth in Arts provided free food/beverage to nearly 1,000 artists, performers and volunteers.
  • Youth in Arts provided three performance venues for new and established musicians.
  • At least $5,000 was spent on chalk and over $5,000 was spent on stenciling the sponsor names on the street each year.
  • The top artists (from around the U.S. and beyond) say the event was the best street painting festival in the world.

The festival showcased amazing talent and impacted careers, brought the community together, created jobs, provided educational and mentor programs, gave children the opportunity to be included in this amazing asphalt gallery, and provided visitors an ephemeral art experience. We especially remember the re-creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling (photo to the right), the only time that the artists had difficulty saying good-bye to their artwork. But most of all, we remember the stories about how the event touched lives, lots of them, in small and huge ways.

Why the festival went on hiatus

Youth in Arts made the difficult decision to cancel the 2011 festival. The reasons were:

  • Decrease in sponsorship dollars.
  • Cutbacks in in-kind product and service donations .
  • More work being done by the Youth in Arts staff versus volunteers, which then impacted the time staff could spend on programs in the schools.
  • People attending weren’t spending.

The idea was to take a year, re-invent the festival and secure major donors. Well, the re-invent is in full swing, but without the commitment from major donors, the event did not return in 2012. Youth in Arts made an even tougher decision in June 2012 to no longer pursue producing the festival.

Help bring the festival back

Bring the festival back in 2013 by helping secure the initial multi-year commitment of $120,000 annually from a few generous donors in the next 120 days. Do you know an individual, business, or corporation who would donate? If so, contact Sue or Joe at ispf@comcast.net or 415.388.2845.


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