International artists made chalk drawings on the streets of Little Italy for the Madonnari Arts Festival in September. This year's theme was "courage." - Original Credit: Baltimore Sun
International artists made chalk drawings on the streets of Little Italy for the Madonnari Arts Festival in September. This year's theme was "courage." - Original Credit: Baltimore Sun (Handout / HANDOUT)

Two weeks ago, 30,000 people filled the streets of Baltimore’s Little Italy to experience art, music, al fresco dining and the meaning of community at the fifth annual Little Italy Madonnari Arts Festival presented by the Little Italy Neighborhood Association and the Baltimore Jazz Alliance. Fifty artists from Italy, Mexico, Belgium and all over the U.S., and student artists from Baltimore School for the Arts, Jemicy School, City Springs Elementary/Middle School and the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, painted 42 giant Renaissance and contemporary 3D masterpieces using chalk pastels as the medium and the street as their canvas. The theme was “courage,” and the artists’ personal statements were as beautiful and thought provoking as their art. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Martin Luther King Jr., artist Amy Sherald, the ladies of NASA, David holding the head of Goliath, Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe and images inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci remained on South High Street for days afterward.

International artists made chalk drawings on the streets of Little Italy for the Madonnari Arts Festival in September. This year's theme was "courage." - Original Credit: Baltimore Sun
International artists made chalk drawings on the streets of Little Italy for the Madonnari Arts Festival in September. This year's theme was "courage." - Original Credit: Baltimore Sun (Handout / HANDOUT)

This was an opportunity for Baltimore and especially for Little Italy to show the world that our community is a powerhouse for creative and forward thinking ideas inspired by well informed knowledge of our past. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, state Sen. Bill Ferguson and our City Council member, Zeke Cohen, presented our Madonnari artists from around the world a commendation from the city of Baltimore recognizing the significance of this glorious festival that brought people together to share ideas and friendship. We thank these leaders and their administration for their demonstrated support of this event.

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We needed last Thursday’s visit from President Donald Trump like a hole in the head. With streets closed for his speech to Republican members of Congress in Harbor East, the crowds we expected from the Natural Foods Expo and from spectators who had missed the festival but wanted to see the completed art that was still vibrant on the streets of Little Italy fizzled. Nevertheless, we witnessed angry protesters with signs stop when they saw the art on the street, put their signs down, read the thoughtful artists’ statements and snap pictures of the art. They left our Little Italy less angry, more inspired.

In the end, dozens came out for President Trump but tens of thousands came out to celebrate art and music and delicious food in Baltimore’s Little Italy. Baltimoreans have their priorities straight.

Cyd Wolf, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Little Italy Madonnari Arts Festival.

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