By Dana Hughes
On Memorial Day Weekend, I had the honor of helping tell the story of the Presidio’s soldiers in a unique medium: chalk painting. The I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival takes place in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo annually to raise money for the Children’s Creative Project, and for the first time this year, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation entered a chalk drawing in the festival. Designed by Higman Intern Madison Lowery, the eight by eight foot square depicts a soldado’s adarga, or shield, in brilliant red and royal blue, emblazoned with an image of the Chapel at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park and Spain’s motto, “Plus Ultra,” or “further beyond.” Floral designs grace the shield and evoke the patterns of women’s embroidered shawls.
Madison, Education Director Melissa Chatfield, Jim Young, volunteer Shauna Moses and myself started early Saturday morning sketching the design that Madison had carefully plotted out, surrounded by artists representing over a hundred organizations, each carefully placing their first few lines. Throughout the day, a myriad of scenes, faces and stories were born from these initial lines. “Look at the house!” a young boy cried as he watched the adobe Presidio Chapel emerge from the pavement, and he and other visitors got the chance to learn a bit about the building and its history.
The event was a lively draw for people of all ages, who enjoyed food, live music, and art throughout the Memorial Day weekend. Hopefully tourists and budding artists alike left the festival feeling inspired by the imagination of Santa Barbara artists, and feeling intrigued about the soldados who carried the thick hide shields in the Santa Barbara of two centuries ago.
Dana Hughes is a Higman Intern in the Education Department at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.