The Big Draw Festival 2018 is well underway and as Big Draw co-creators across the globe unite in their passion for the pencil, we catch up with the people behind the hundreds of #Play2018 projects coming your way this October.
We are thrilled to welcome Snite Museum of Art in Indiana, US to The Big Draw Festival for the first time this year! We catch up with Sarah Martin, the Museum’s Curator of Education on their popular Big Draw Festival 2018 programme, why they introduced ‘Snite Sketches’ and to discuss why drawing as the first and only universal language.
BD: Through your various exhibitions and learning programmes, the Snite Museum of Art offers interpretations of cultures such as Latino, African American and Native North American to school children, students and general visitors who may otherwise have limited exposure to them. What do you think is the significance of art in engaging and educating people on culture and history?
SM: Art provides an opportunity for us to travel to other countries and throughout time without ever leaving the comfort of our “backyard.” We can step into other peoples’ shoes (whether the artist’s or the people they’ve depicted in their works of art) to explore what it’s like to see the world the way that they do…from a different perspective. Art gives us the chance to see beyond our individual limited experience of the world…it’s a window to a much richer reality than just our own. Museums provide safe and supportive opportunities through programs and exhibitions to go on this sometimes-intimidating, sometimes-challenging, always-rewarding adventure.
BD: Here at The Big Draw we advocate the incredible influence of art and visual literacy in building bridges and communicating beyond language barriers. On your website you have stated that the Snite Museum is “founded on the principle that art is essential to understanding individual, shared, and diverse human experiences and beliefs”. Why do you think that visual literacy is such a crucial tool for communication and expression?
SM: As humans we are hardwired for images. Humans have been making art since the beginning of time, well before we had written languages. All of us as infants recognize shapes, colors, objects, and people well before we have the specific words for them.
We as a species need opportunities to exercise our visual literacy muscles by making our own images and talking about the images made by others throughout time and around the world. It is only by creating and having discussions about works of art that our visual literacy skills can be strengthened. Art museums are an ideal place for this skill building to take place.
In addition, art museums connect us to the past (our own and that of others) and prime us to think about our collective future. This is what it means for art to be “essential to understanding individual, shared, and diverse human experiences and beliefs.”
BD: This year, The Big Draw Festival is celebrating the power of Play in the creative process, as well as in all aspects of life. What is the significance of Play in your work at the Snite Museum? Moreover, what role will this theme play in your Big Draw Festival events?
SM: We believe every single person has creativity within them whether they recognize it or not; they only need the encouragement and the chance to explore it. Our Festival programs invite people to come and play in the Museum. Every one of our programs is open and welcoming to people of all skill levels and experiences. In some cases, we have artists on hand to support the learning taking place (i.e. MFA students facilitating the figure drawing in the galleries or an artist leading the botanical illustration workshop) and in other situations we offer very low commitment opportunities for visitors to explore their creative side at their own speed (i.e. the Snite Sketches wall on which people can choose to leave their sketches or take them).
BD: The Snite Museum is set within the grounds of Notre Dame University, Indiana. What is the Museum’s relationship with the University, and its students? Do students often get involved with the Snite Museum programmes?
SM: The Museum is an integral part of the education offered students at the University of Notre Dame. Students can be involved with the Snite Museum in a variety of ways during their academic career--each requiring a different level of commitment from the student. Gallery Teachers lead conversations with Notre Dame classes in the Museum about works of art. They apply and interview for this position, are paid for their work, and receive on-going training throughout the semester. Volunteers on our Student Programming Committee design programs for students, meet regularly with staff, and are an integral way that the Museum connects with the larger student body on campus. Students can also work in the Museum in a variety of departments from marketing to curatorial to exhibition design. Beyond these roles, the majority of students on campus (on average 75%) will visit the Museum with at least one of their classes during their time at the University to learn through deep conversation about works of art related to a diverse range of subjects.
BD: We believe that drawing can be life changing; it is an amazing tool for creativity, invention and discovery. We hope that The Big Draw Festival, with it’s theme of ‘Play’, will give people an opportunity to embrace their mistakes, and not be afraid of imperfections in the creative process. I noted a particularly pertinent quote on your website by artist Frederick Frank: “Drawing is the discipline by which I constantly discover the world”.
After all, The Big Draw's mantra is: ‘drawing to learn, not learning to draw’. With this in mind, do you believe there is such a thing as a “bad” drawing?
SM: I love that quote, that it is about “drawing to learn, not learning to draw!” In my experience, the only bad drawing is the one that never leaves your mind…that you deem to be impossible before you even start. We get a lot of people saying, “I can’t even draw a stick figure.” I strive to develop programs that provide opportunities for (and encouragement to) people of all ages to push themselves and re-think what they are capable of. I’m a firm believer that sketching is a form of seeing and is another way to take notes. I teach this to our docents, the students who visit our museum, and any teachers that I work with.
BD: Your Big Draw event this year includes ‘Snite Sketches’, in which the public are welcome to come in and draw their favourite works in the Museum all month long. This will be a great opportunity to satisfy one’s creative itch in a new, stimulating environment, and to get to exhibit the finished product in the Museum afterwards! Outside of The Big Draw Festival, does drawing play a major role in the day to day goings-on at The Snite Museum? Do you usually see people being inspired to take pencil to paper by the Museum’s galleries and collections?
SM: Sadly, we don’t see a lot of people sketching in the Museum galleries which is one of the reasons we came up with the Snite Sketches program. We wanted to let people know that: 1) they can sketch in the galleries at any time and, 2) that sketching a work of art is an amazing way to connect with it on a deeper level. The Snite Sketches program has been a huge success with tons or drawings being added to the “gallery” every week by visitors of all ages. We’re now thinking of ways to incorporate a sketching area in one of our more flexible spaces year-round!
BD: Could you tell us a little more about what’s in store for this year’s Big Draw Snite Museum event?
SM: We have three programs this month in conjunction with The Big Draw Festival:
Snite Sketches—a space in the Museum where we have set up sketching materials (pencils, paper, erasers, and drawing boards) and a gallery wall. Visitors can pick up materials, head into the galleries, sketch their favorite work of art, and then post it to the gallery or take it with them.
Figure It Out—this figure drawing program takes place in our 18th- and 19th-century galleries. We have two nude models (male and female) posing under the direction of MFA students who are also on hand to help any participant with their sketch. This program is free and open to anyone over the age of 17. We provide all materials and participants are welcome to bring their own dry drawing materials.
Botanical Illustration Workshops—these are free, 4-hour workshops led by Chicago-based illustrator Kathleen Garness. The first one is designed for art teachers and will focus on using watercolor pencils to draw botanical images and will explore ways teachers can integrate this form of drawing into their classes. The second workshop is open to the public and will utilize colored pencils for the drawings. Both workshops filled within a week of their promotion.
The huge interest we’ve had from people both on- and off-campus in these programs has encouraged and challenged us to think about ways that we can integrate more drawing opportunities into our program schedule and also how to encourage visitors on a regular basis to sketch while they’re exploring the collections and exhibitions.
Interview by: Matilda Barratt
Thank you to Sarah and the team at Snite Museum of Art!
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Sarah! If you have been inspired by his insights into the world of museums, sketching and the infinite possibilities of drawing, why not become a part of the world’s largest drawing festival or find an event near you this autumn?
Snite Museum of Art’s Big Draw Festival Events and ‘Snite Sketches’ continue throughout October. Take at look at all their events here.