The Big Draw Festival 2019 is picking up the pace, and as Big Draw co-creators across the globe unite in their passion for creativity, we catch up with the people behind the #DrawnToLife projects coming your way.
We are thrilled to be catching up with Rosemary Connelly from the Mispillion Art League, who will be disclosing the vital role of creativity on our heads and our hearts...
The Mispillion Art League has a wealth of exciting and unique Big Draw events in store for you all this year! Find out more here, or find them on our events map.
Hi Rosemary! Thanks so much for talking to us today. The Mispillion Art League was founded in 2004 by people who love visual arts with a mission to share their passions with the community. I understand this was initially carried out through semi-annual exhibits and a few art classes - but the League has grown a lot since then! Could you tell us a little more about Mispillion Art League and your role within the organisation?
"The Mispillion Art League (MAL) is a nonprofit art organisation whose mission is to provide community-wide access to a quality visual arts programme.
The Art League has grown from its modest beginnings to a 300+ membership organisaton serving families from 34 zip codes. We are now in two leased spaces, offering both a gallery and gift shop to display art and an education room to create art. MAL makes it possible for children and adults of all cultures, ages, skill and economic levels to access the visual arts through its educational programmes and outreach opportunities.
Last year, MAL provided 75 workshops and classes to children and adults. Instruction was of both 2D and 3D art forms including photography, painting in watercolours, acrylcs, pastels, and oils, encaustics, drawing with pencil and charcoal, sculpture, pottery, jewellery, basketry, papier mache and stained glass.
To address the 'community-wide' element of our mission, we partner with nonprofit organisations to offer art classes designed specfically for the clients they serve. Thans to grants from Kent County Fund for the Arts and the Milford Lions Club, we are able to provide art experiences for:
The Salvation Army's Creative HeARTs Programe is for mentally challenged adults. Each month at MAL a free art class is taught to these participants by a professional artist.
Stevenson House Detention Centre is a facility for pre-adjudicated male and female youth under the age of 18 years old. Residents are assigned weekly goals that help them improve on a personal target behaviour. Once monhly, the residents who have earned the required positive behaviour points may attend a group art class taught at their location. The MAL instructor brings all needed art supplies to the class.
Home of The Brave I and II (HOB) and Kent-Sussex Industries (KSI): HOB I and II are residential facilities for honorably discharged homeless male and female veterans. These veterans are starting to get into creating art through painting with various media. KSI is a not for profit vocational rehabilitation organisation whose mission is to assist people with disabilities in the pursuit of their potential in employment and meaningful participation in their communities. The KSI class is a joyful and happy group according to their art teacher."
"Senior Citizens Workshops: MAL offers art workshops for seniors. Three one-hour classes present a variety of artistic mediums for a nominal fee to participants. Attendance at these semi-annual workshops is 90 seniors with a waiting list!
Summer Art Kickoff and Cabin Fever Art Extravaganza: These free community events are designed to share art experiences with children and their families. A variety of crafts and art activities are offered. Attendees are give information on upcoming classes and scholarship availabilities to encourage everyone to sign up for art lessons.
Sussex County Correctional Centre, Crest South Programme: Incarcerated women who are soon to be returned to heir communities participate in making art. Each woman reported having a wonderful hour, and several wanted to know if the art teachers could come every week.
We at the Art League firmly believe in the power of art to heal and uplift individuals and entire communities.
For myself, I discovered Mispillion Art League shortly after moving to the small town of Milford, in Southern Delaware. My late husband and I had been living in Italy for two years and had decided to relocate to the East Coast from Arizona where we had lived for 30+ years prior to our Italian Adventure. It felt like coming home! MAL has a reputation for being warm and welcoming and it lives up to that reputation. My background is in Graphic Design but I also studied drawing and painting in college and had painted and sketched extensively in Italy and was looking forward to sharing my work in exhibits at MAL but throughout the state and in other locations as well. I have MAL to thank for launching that next phase of my life."
This is the Mispillion Art League's first year taking part in The Big Draw Festival - we're so pleased to have you on board! What inspired you to get involved?
"I was travelling in Barcelona 2 years ago where I saw posters promoting The Big Draw. I had to return home before the event, but it piqued my interest enough to come home and find out what it was all about. Eventually I brought the idea to MAL and they liked it. A committee was formed and step by step we are making it happen, partnering with other Arts organisations around the state."
Here at The Big Draw we believe that everyone can draw, and everyone should! What advice would you give to someone who would like to tap into their creative side, but doesnt feel they have the confidence?
"Interesting you should ask me that, because I am often answering this question! I meet so many people who have always had the desire to draw or make art but were discouraged as children or never felt they had the talent. I tell them that the most important thing is the desire to do it. I equate drawing/art making with playing music. If someone handed you a violin (and you were not a musician) and asked you to play Mozart, you would be flabbergasted and respond by saying that you did not know how to play and would need to learn and practice. The same is true of making art. There are skills to learn but the important thing is that you keep doing it. One of the things I do is give them permission not to be perfect! Mistakes are part of the process. My advice is just to do it. Take workshops or classes with artists whose work you admire and don't worry about ruining that million-dollar piece of paper!"
You have a lot of exciting events in store for this year's Festival! Could you tell us a little bit about your plans, and why people should get involved?
"I am very excited about all the things we have planned! We have over 50 activities and classes suitable for artists and non-artists, families and kids throughout the state of Delaware during the month of October. In Milford, we have something happening every day of the month with Free Family events every Saturday. Our classes for kids include: Cartoons and Creativity; Traditional Mexican Decorative Art; Mask Making for Halloween; and creating Sugar Skull Art. For adults, we have: Dynamic Doodling; Sketching Actors in Costume at Riverfront Theatre; Hand Building with Clay; Linoleum Block Printing; Sketching Dancers at First State Dance Academy; and more!
Our Free Saturday events include: a Chalk Walk; Sand Castle building; Painting with your Feet in the Street; Painting Pumpkins at the Farmers Market; Helping to Paint a Mandala on our Breezeway wall; Watercolour Journaling; Sketching at the Milford Museum and the Vineyard Shipyard, one of the last remaining shipyards in Delaware; and so much more! A local gallery, Gallery 37, is offering a special Drawing exhibit in honour of The Big Draw DE.
We'll be creating colouring books based on local landmarks, from photographs by local photographer that we plan to distribute to shops, restaurants and doctors' offices.
We're working with our Sponsor Bayhealth Hospital to bring an Art Cart to patients in the hospital. And Delaware Division of the Arts has invited us to offer arts activities at the annual Arts Summit for attendees.
We are participating with other Delaware Arts organizations and can't wait to see what they are planning as part of The 2019 Big Draw Festival Delaware! We are working with Jerry's Artarama, Newark DE store; DAC (Developing Artists Collaboration) in Rehoboth, DE; Rehoboth Art League, Milton Arts Guild, Gallery 107/Nanticoke River Arts Council and Newark Arts Alliance and the Downtown Dover Partnership.
We believe we've got something for everyone. From classes geared towards artists - from beginners to advanced - to activities that will be just plain fun for families and kids of all ages!"
It's encouraging to see some non-standard techniques being used in your Big Draw activities - from Coffee Pours to Block Printing to Sugar Skull Art... I could go on and on! We really try to promote the importance of visual literacy, not just within the realm of drawing. Do you think it is important in the creative process to experiment and have fun with different techniques?
"Absolutely! I believe it stimulates your thinking and encourages creativity. I know for myself, when I try something new it makes me think a little differently and I am challenged to perhaps use a different part of my brain and find it very exciting."
Each year The Big Draw Festival carries a theme for our co-creators to explore. This year's Festival theme 'Drawn to Life' aims to shine a light on the pivotal role that creativity can play in our health and wellbeing. As 'social prescribing' gains greater recognition as an effective tool for living a healthier and happier life, creating opportunities for the community to come together and get creative is more important than ever. What role will this play in your events this year?
"Because of the theme, we reached out to Bayhealth Hospital who had just in this past year completed construction of a beautiful new facility here in Milford. They responded well to the idea of bringing art to their patients and we felt it tied in perfectly with the theme for this year's Big Draw Festival. We also plan to bring flyers and the Landmark colouring books and crayons I mentioned to Bayhealth Hospital and to family physicians for their waiting rooms and have had a very positive response to the Festival overall."
Furthermore, does 'Drawn to Life' play an important role in your life and work outside of the Festival?
"Drawn to Life plays a huge role in my life. I have been a practicing artist for most of my life. I worked as a professional graphic designer for over 20 years and have been a working artist for at least 15 years, teaching for at least 10 of those years. It has always given me great joy. My husband of nearly 50 years died over 3 years ago and my art practice has sustained me in my grief and allowed me to escape and get lost in my drawings and urban sketching. I don't know what I would have done without it."
What role does drawing play in your life outside of work?
"My art is my work and my life. My late husband was a photographer and together we traveled extensively. I'm travelling solo now but I still enoy my adventures and being able to sketch wherever I travel makes me feel less alone. I am also able to join up with other Urban Sketchers and that is a great joy. I am happiest when I am drawing and making art."
The last word goes to you!
"I'm so looking forward to October when all our plans come to life! The Mispillion Art League is planning a huge marketing blitz and hope we can attract all members of our community to come out, draw, paint, make marks, let loose and play, and realise how much fun it can be to make art - and how good it can make you feel!"
Thanks so much for chatting with us Rosemary!
Have you been inspired by Rosemary's interview and The Big Draw Festival 2019 theme: #DrawntoLife? Why not join our global Festival in 2019? Registration is now open! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.