Artists drawn to Tivoli’s 12th street painting festival

Lava flowed down a mountainside, deer frolicked in autumn leaves and winter snow, seagulls hovered and sea creatures lurked, suns set and jack-o-lanterns grinned along Broadway in Tivoli during the 12th annual Tivoli Street Painting Festival.

Nearly 250 squares were decorated, with dozens of squares added throughout the day for late arrivals. Professional artists and elementary school kids often worked on neighboring canvases as hundreds of visitors came to see the works-in-progress and enjoy the live and recorded music.

The day starts around 7am as cars are cleared off the street and Broadway is swept and marked out in numbered 8×8 squares from Montgomery St. to Pine St. Volunteers do the work, sweeping and painting and preparing for the festival.

The Tivoli festival derives from an 1600s Italian tradition of itinerant artists called madonnari, who traveled from town to town, in rhythm with holy day celebrations, creating images in public squares and in front of the local church using bits of broken roof tiles, charcoal and white chalk.

Tivoli’s festival mimics this ancient form just as Tivoli’s name derives from the town of Tivoli in Italy. Tivoli’s own festival emerged out of an annual artist celebration, which morphed into the Street Painting Festival in 2001. The festival’s founder, Linda Murphy, advertised the Tivoli festival by becoming an itinerant artist herself, traveling to other festivals and presenting her own art on the pavement.

Click here for photos from the 2012 festival.

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