In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Republic of Italy, about 140 artists representing 40 teams across the country will use gesso Italiano or “Italian chalk” to embellish the streets of Little Italy, including a replica of one of Michelangelo’s most famous works of art.
“This year, there are two parts to ‘Gesso Italiano,’” said Cecelia Linayao, artist team lead. “The first is the regular street painting event for artists who applied and are assigned separate spaces to create individual pieces. The second and special part is the re-creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. This is a team project — all the artists work together in a collaborative effort to create a single painting.”
Although participating artists range in experience from professionals to students, Linayao’s portfolio includes participation on the team creating the world’s largest chalk drawing in 2008 as recorded in the “Guinness Book of World Records” and on the team that brought street painting to the 2008 Olympic Games in China.
“Since this is a very complicated piece, careful, painstaking control is extremely important,” said Linayao. “Public support is the street painter’s version of applause.”
The artists will get a jumpstart on FESTA! by beginning their work the day before the event, and the artwork on the city streets will be washed away once the event concludes.
“Street painting is, by its very nature, a temporary art form,” said Linayao. “That’s why witnessing it in person is so important. Photos are great documentation, but seeing it with your own eyes at the time of creation is an amazing experience. Those treasured experiences negate the sound of the inevitable street sweeper.”
Michelangelo took more than four years to complete the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but the Gesso Italiano artists will only have two days and one city block to reproduce his masterpiece.
“The team must finish by Sunday,” said Linayao. “Therein lies the challenge — both artistically and logistically. I have to edit the original so that it can be completed within this timeframe. The final painting will be 18 by 46 feet.”
Embracing another favorite Italian pastime, chefs from popular Little Italy restaurants can be found at the FESTA! Italian Table, providing cooking demonstrations, recipes and free samples to attendees.
“Italians have pride in their heritage and what they brought to the American table,” said Deborah Scott, presenting chef. “There’s so much history in Little Italy, all beginning with the tuna fishermen.”
Scott has been a member of the Little Italy community since 1994 with her restaurant Indigo Grill, located at 1536 India St. This year will be her first time participating in the cooking demonstrations at FESTA!
Scott will show festival guests how to prepare Veracruz tamales, made with maize and guajillo chile sauce, and will be offering tastes of shrimp and scallop ceviche, made with an Italian twist.
Other entertainment will include classic and contemporary Italian-inspired music on three different stages — and for the sports fans, an Italian stickball exhibition game will showcase the traditional urban sport resembling baseball.
FESTA! serves as a fundraiser for the Little Italy Association in support of its continued beautification, safety and development efforts.
For more information, visit www.littleitalysd.com.